Counterfeit Medications a Global Issue

A worldwide analysis of several infectious disease drugs found up to 41% of the samples did not meet quality standards.

A worldwide analysis of several infectious disease drugs found up to 41% of the samples did not meet quality standards.

Published online in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the study is a compilation of 17 articles, which not only called attention to the prevalence of substandard drugs but also to the overarching effects of their use — citing evidence of falsified malaria drugs, which in 2013 led to the deaths of 122,350 African children.

Through 7 analyses, scientists accessed public and private databases to inspect 16,800 samples of antimalarials, anti-tuberculosis medicines, antibiotics and anti-leishmaniasis drugs. In doing so, they estimate 9 to 41% of samples were of poor quality.

“The pandemic of falsified and substandard medicines is pervasive and underestimated, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where drug regulatory systems are weak or non-existent, as shown by field studies in the supplement,” Jim Herrington, PhD, MPH, co-editor of the supplement and director of the University of North Carolina’s Gillings Global Gateway at Chapel Hill said.

To remedy this dilemma, the authors introduced several solutions, including implementing worldwide drug oversight programs. Since this issue was especially prevalent in lower-income countries, cards that could gauge identify low quality antimalarials was highlighted as economical and surprisingly effective answer.

However, policy-driven solutions were offered as having the most worthwhile and overarching effect, since the authors claimed “no tool or technique is of any value if not backed by good governance and the rule of law.” Furthermore, they believe global conventions, launching evidence-based policies, and tough legal and financial penalties would help mitigate the problem.

Stressing the importance of how this issue could undo great strides made by HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives, the authors wrote, “The goal of this special issue is to alert scientists, public health authorities, and decision makers to the problem of poor-quality drugs and to take prompt actions to mitigate and resolve the growing peril.”