Tuesday , 2 July 2013

Copy and paste journalism thrives in Kenya

by Florence Dzame

The coverage in the Kenyan media of a recent study on fake tuberculosis drugs that was published in The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease was a depressing read.

It revealed to me how media outlets rely on cut-and-paste reporting: repeating the same stories from international media outlets and agencies without making an effort to contextualize the information or get the views of local experts.

The study, found here, suggests that Kenya, Uganda and other developing countries have substandard TB drugs, especially in private pharmacies. Two first-line anti-tuberculosis drugs - Isoniazid and Rifampicin - were collected from 19 private,city pharmacies in the countries. They were then tested for their active ingredient and disintegration, to see if they are soluble in water at body temperature within 30 minutes. The report concluded that the samples failed these basic control tests making them likely to contribute to TB drug resistance.

“Even products that passed the test may have been of poor quality,” reveals the study.

The Kenyan media reported the results for the study as would be expected of them but what they did not do is tell their audiences how many TB patients buy their drugs from private pharmacies.

On a telephone call with the National TB programme manager Dr. Joseph Sitinei, he told me that most TB patients get their drugs from public health facilities with the private sector treating only two per cent of TB cases. A better story would have been treatment of TB in private facilities and pharmacies.

TB is the fourth leading cause of death in Kenya according to the World Health Organization. In 2011, 103, 981 people were treated for TB in Kenya.

Sitinei acknowledged that there could be fake drugs in circulation in some private facilities and many private pharmacies misuse anti-tuberculosis drugs, like Isoniazid, by prescribing them for all kinds of bacterial diseases including gonorrhea. He said misuse of the drugs is one of the causes of drug resistant TB.