The Scandal of fake Malaria drugs

English: Life cycle of malaria, NIH, http://hi...Just as the world has been trying to take a real stab at eradicating malaria comes news that the effort is being undermined in a critical area. It turns out that over a third of the anti-malaria drugs being distributed in Southeast Asia are fake and ineffective and a similar percentage in Africa are substandard and possibly ineffective according to a study in The Lancet.
Specifically, in seven Southeast Asian countries, 36 percent of samples tested, across five categories of drugs, were counterfeit and 30 percent did not have the pharmaceutical ingredients they were supposed to contain.
“These findings are a wake-up call demanding a series of interventions to better define and eliminate both criminal production and poor manufacturing of antimalarial drugs,” said Joel Breman of the Fogarty International Center at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
And in 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 20 percent of samples were fake and 35 percent  were ‘below pharmaceutical norms.’ In other words 35 percent would work badly or not at all.

Many of the fakes and poorly made drugs are apparently in the artemisin family, a worrying trend according to the World Health Organization which is troubling since this category is supposed to replace drugs that are ineffective because the malaria parasite has become resistant. In addition their prevalence in Southeast Asia is especially concerning since that is where some new strains of resistant malaria (resistant even to artemisin) have been recently appearing.

“Poor-quality antimalarial drugs are very likely to jeopardize the unprecedented progress and investments in control and elimination of malaria made in the past decade,” said Breman.

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