Why Researchers Say Fake and Low-Quality Drugs Are a ‘Global Pandemic’

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fake and substandard drugs are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths around the globe each year, and the persistent lack of reliable medicines in poor countries threatens to roll back decades of efforts to combat malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and other conditions, researchers said Monday.

“The pandemic of falsified and substandard medicines is pervasive and underestimated, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where drug and regulatory systems are weak or non-existent,” Jim Herrington, a University of North Carolina public health professor who co-edited acollection of articles on the topic published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, said in a statement.

The articles, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, detail various aspects of the long-standing problem of substandard drugs, as well as looking at potential solutions to reducing the harm they cause each year.

One piece describes the discovery of falsified and poor quality malaria drugs that contributed to the deaths of an estimated 122,000 African children in 2013. In another study, scientists examined nearly 17,000 samples of antibiotics, antimalarial and anti-tuberculosis drugs and found that as many as 41 percent failed to meet quality specifications.

While such investigations offer clues to the scope of the problem, researchers say it remains unknown exactly how pervasive counterfeit and low-quality drugs are. Falsified medicines account for an estimated $75 billion market annually, but even that is simply an educated guess. While the problem is most pervasive in poor countries dealing with malaria and other infectious diseases, it also affects medicines for cancer, cardiovascular disease and other serious illnesses around the globe, experts said.

Source: The Washington Post (link opens in a new window)

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