Rwandan physical therapists take on the counterfeiters

Physical therapists from the Rwanda Physiotherapy Association have been awarded a grant from the World Health Professions Alliance to mount a campaign against counterfeit medical practices and products. 

They will use the $US 6,000 grant to encourage behaviour change among the public and patients, providing them with information and guidance to only buy and use medical products which come from known and reliable sources. 

The grants, which have also been awarded to projects in Ethiopia, Lesotho and the Philippines, are part of the WHPA’s Counterfeit Medical Products Campaign.  This is attempting to end the adverse effects on patients that can result from the sale of counterfeit medical products and their infiltration into the legitimate supply chain.

The Rwandan physical therapists want to spread awareness of the threat not just of counterfeit medical products, but counterfeit health advice.

“In Rwanda, the current problem of counterfeit medical products results from some non-qualified groups whose number is now increasing in our country,” says Jean Damascene Gasherebuka, President of the Rwanda Physiotherapy Association. “Patients who consult these kind of services end up returning to physiotherapists and nutrition services with more complications from the disease due to the delay of getting proper treatment.”

“They disseminate counterfeit theories and provide wrong information on nutrition and food supplements – to patients individually or through media channels such as newspapers and television.  It is unacceptable that, rather than staying within their scope of practice, some practitioners say that they have the cure for all kind of diseases and act as physical therapists or nutritionists/dieticians.”

The Rwanda Physiotherapy Association will work with the Rwanda Nutritionist Society to plan and implement the sensitisation campaign. It will also be collaborating with pharmacists, nurses and physicians. Rwandan physiotherapists will produce pamphlets, banners and t-shirts to publicise the issues, and lobby key individuals. Information will alert the public to the dangers of using counterfeit medical products and the advantage of consulting qualified health professionals as soon as possible. They will organise a major launch, produce broadcasts for television and radio, and organise a “health walk” in Kigali City. 

The WHPA, of which WCPT is a member, was impressed with the quality of the Rwanda Physiotherapy Association’s grant application.

“Besides the quality of the proposal itself, we liked the fact that it uniquely reflected the country's context, noting practical challenges to bringing positive behaviour changes,” said Xuanhao Chan, on behalf of the WHPA. “It highlighted dangers of misinformation on health products/services beyond drugs and devices.”