NIH study shows poor quality antimalarials a danger

A new U.S. National Institutes of Health study shows that poor quality antimalarial drugs can lead to increased drug resistance and inadequate treatment.

The study, published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, showed that the poor quality medications pose a threat to vulnerable populations, while the emergence of artemisinin-resistant malaria strains on the Thailand-Cambodia border make it imperative to improve the drug supply.

"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," Dr. Joel Breman, a co-author of the study, said.

The researchers analyzed survey data of malaria drugs available in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and found that 20 to 42 percent are either of poor quality or entirely fake.

Surveys from seven Southeast Asian countries included the data from more than 1,400 samples of malaria drugs. Approximately one-third of those failed chemical analysis, almost half were inappropriately packaged and 36 percent were fakes.

There are currently no global estimates available on the extent of poor-quality malaria drugs because there are no internationally acceptable definitions of the types of inadequate drugs, no standard testing protocols and no content requirements.

"These findings are a wakeup call demanding a series of interventions to better define and eliminate both criminal production and poor manufacturing of antimalarial drugs," Breman said.

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