By Roberto Abdenur
An industry as poignant as it is nefarious puts the health and even the lives of thousands of Brazilians on the tightrope. Annually, it seizes large amounts, ranging between R $ 5 billion and R $ 8 billion, from the sale of medicines that result from theft, contraband, distribution of false or illegal drugs.
To get an idea of the strength of this “risk industry”, only in the first half of 2011 the seizure of goods for smuggling, counterfeiting and piracy increased by 51% compared to the same period in 2010, according to the Federal Revenue Service. A data in itself alarming, but it gets even worse when you look only at the seized medication loads and arrive at the frightening growth of 180,5% compared to the previous year. A dishonorable third place, behind only illegal ammunition loads, which increased by 445%, and bags and accessories, which grew by 423%.
It is not necessary to be a qualified economist to understand the maxim that there is no supply without demand. With this quick association, the results of a survey carried out by Ibope Inteligência for Interfarma at the end of 2011 are not surprising. After listening to 2.002 people across the country, the study revealed that a fifth of the Brazilian population buys medicines without a prescription. In the Northeast, this population rises to almost a quarter, more precisely 24%.
As the Minister of Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo, said in an event held in Rio de Janeiro, the truth is that people buy. Whether for ease, price, convenience, Brazilian citizens are exposed to unimaginable risks, especially when the precariousness with which “piracy pills” are manufactured is known.
The problem, which is difficult to solve, has mobilized time and minds not only in the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Police. The National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) is engaged in this fight; the National Council for Combating Piracy and Intellectual Property Offenses (CNCP); parliamentarians and civil society organizations, such as the Brazilian Institute for Competition Ethics (ETCO) and the National Forum against Piracy and Illegality (FNCP). Each, in his specialty, has done much to combat this evil that plagues the country.
But in view of the figures presented above, it is clear that the repression of crime, alone, falls far short of the pressing need to eradicate harmful informality.
Commendable measures - such as the partnership between Anvisa and the Ministry of Justice, for the seizure of illegal drugs; interdiction of establishments and arrest of those responsible; and the Strategic Frontier Plan, which articulates several government forces in the surveillance of the 17 thousand kilometers of Brazil's land border - must necessarily be accompanied by other preventive actions.
Investing effectively in raising public awareness about the harms of illegal remedies and the risks to which they are exposed is one of the most urgent measures. Joining efforts around the production of educational campaigns is a mission that imposes itself on the players in the sector.
Drug screening is another factor of great importance. In a statement released in December, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) stated that it has already decided on the guidelines that will guide the implementation of the National Drug Control System, as determined by Law 11.903 / 09. Tracking, among other advantages, will help in combating cargo theft and will allow identifying who manufactured the product, who sold it, who dispatched it and when it arrived at the distributor and pharmacies.
We are not facing a simply economic problem. Undoubtedly, the honest and legal drug industry is affected and the government loses revenue that could be used to improve services to the population. But the case of medicines opens up a bigger problem, a problem of public health, of life, of citizenship. Brazil cannot and should not continue to run this risk.