Friday, September 4, 2009

Patent Medicines, Branded Goods and Quackery

Photo: Cough medicine that is more likely to do harm than good.

Most people in developing countries, especially the poorest, have to spend a lot of money on self medication. Insurance is far too expensive, as are hospital and clinic visits. So private pharmacies, shops and supermarkets supply a range of things that you will see people buying and using regularly.

However, I can't help thinking that people are being fleeced because many of these products seem to have ingredients that would be of little benefit to sick people. The main ingredient of the cough medicine above is creosote (which has known negative effects on health). The smell of the stuff is enough to make you gag and my friend using it certainly gagged every time she had to take some.

People are also being fleeced because they are being sold branded versions of things like paracetamol and aspirin, which are very expensive compared to the generic versions. The cost of some of these branded medicines and the patent medicines, such as Panadol, Gripe Water and various syrups and tonics are often the equivalent of a good meal or two, something that might be of far greater help to the symptoms.

I guess developing countries are an easy target for this kind of exploitation, given low levels of health care, little or no access to health education and constant bombardment with advertisements, advertorials and sneaky appearances of various products in soaps and dramas.

Photo: This van certainly says a lot! Sphere: Related Content


  1. You also forgot to mention that developing countries are also highly susceptible to quacks operating as doctors and herbalists!

    Just last night I saw two 'doctors' on the news who had clearly bought forged certificates from somewhere only they knew of, practising medicine!

    Imagine if I just went out and bought myself a bachelors degree in medicine somewhere in River Road, bribed someone to register me as a doctor, then open up a clinic and 'treat' the unsuspecting public, with fake lab tests and medicines to boot! That to me is the height of this thuggery!

  2. Hi Mama
    You're right, I saw that. But other countries have their fake doctors. There was one in the UK who practiced for over 30 years before being caught. He almost always prescribed tar water, in other words, creosote!

    I'm sure you could get yourself any qualifications you wanted, that's the problem with being able to slip someone a few dollars to get anything.

  3. Simon,

    30 years is a long time to prescribe fake medicines! How many people must have died/gotten worse from his negligence. Do these people have a conscience?

    And the UK of all places? That is amazing. Where were the authorities?

  4. There were a few similar incidents around the same time but that 'doctor' broke all records. Having said that, I'm sure a lot of people going to see him had little wrong with them. It's hard to know if such things don't happen any more or if journalists are not interested enough to report them at the moment. Media events come and go so it's hard to know what's happening in the world by following media coverage.