What's at stake in the fake?

Indian pharmaceuticals, African markets and global health

People’s knowledge about ‘fake’ antimalarial drugs: The case of Morogoro town, Tanzania

Keketso Peete

My research project in centralised on uncovering the knowledge local people living, working and visiting the city of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, have about ‘fake’ pharmaceutical drugs,  antimalarial drugs in particular. Since there seem to be a global health concern around the availability of ‘fake’ pharmaceutical drugs circulating in society, especially in Tanzania, I aim to find out how people react and make sense of this, through their interpretations, taxonomies, concepts and embodied skills they have about antimalarial drugs that are ‘fake’, as a form of medicine highly in demand in Tanzania, due to the epidemic of malaria in the country.   

Since the issue of ‘fake’ pharmaceutical drugs had taken priority in contemporary global health scene. The question I am asking is: how people receive, interact and respond the information promoted by bodies of governance classifying what ‘fake’ drugs are?  To uncover answers to the question I will be conducting ethnographic fieldwork within and around drug shops in Dar es Salaam, interacting with people to gather how people talk about and react towards the concerns of having ‘fake’ antimalarial drugs sold and circulating in the city, in accordance to their positionality and lived experiences.    

Accommodating a phenomenological perspective into the discourse about ‘fake’ pharmaceutical drugs matters because it opens new channels of understanding issues around ‘fake’ drugs that are not necessarily based on scientific factors but also personal, socio-cultural and economic in a descriptive manner. Paying close consideration of how people, using their knowledge act, see and make sense of the event of living under a situation where the is a concern of the availability of ‘fake’ pharmaceutical drugs is important because pharmaceutical drugs are not just biomedical products, their classification, selling and use are also influenced by personal, social, cultural, political and economic factors.