Tuesday May 22, 201209:15 AM GMT
Fake drugs threaten global fight against malaria
More than a third of malaria drugs flooding into markets in Asia and Africa are fake.
More than a third of malaria drugs flooding into markets in Asia and Africa are fake.
Tue May 22, 2012 9:3AM
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More than a third of malaria drugs flooding into markets in Asia and Africa are fake, say researchers who warn that the dirty business may foil global fight against the deadly disease.


Scientists from the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US analyzed 27 sets of tests of anti-malaria drugs purchased in Southeast Asia and Africa between 1999 and 2010.

The results which published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases revealed that about 36 percent of the samples obtained in southeast Asia were fake while a third of the drugs analyzed in sub-Saharan Africa failed chemical testing for containing too much or too little of the active ingredient.

The report has raised a grave concern among health experts because the widely used inactive drugs may have led many patients to death. The fake or less effective drugs can also highly increase the risk of development of new and more deadly drug-resistant malaria parasites.

Worldwide 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria, which is endemic in 106 countries. Additionally, between 655,000 and 1.2 million patients die every year due to infection caused by a form of malaria parasite called Plasmodium falciparum, according to the lead author Gaurvika Nayyar.

The experts explain that some of those medications were clearly criminal counterfeits. However, the others were expired drugs that had been repackaged or were poorly made medicines with too little active ingredient.

The authors warned that their findings might be just a small part of the dark reality about the business of fake, expired or substandard drugs in developing countries.

“Despite a dramatic rise in reports of poor-quality anti-malarial drugs over the past decade, the issue is much greater than it seems because most cases are probably unreported, reported to the wrong agencies, or kept confidential by pharmaceutical companies,” noted the investigators.

“No reliable global estimates are available about the frequency of poor-quality anti-malarial drugs because of no internationally accepted definitions of different types of poor-quality drugs; no globally standardized or statistically robust sampling schemes, testing protocols, and requirements for drug content; a dearth of funds; and no recognized international forum to provide technical and scientific guidance and oversight,” the report added.

SJM/SJM
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