Fake malaria drugs less common than originally estimated
"Although there have been alarming reports about the prevalence of fake anti-malarials, our study provides ample data showing that the quality of drugs is not so bad based on comprehensive sampling and analysis presented here,” Harparkash Kaur, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead investigator of the ACT Consortium drug quality program, said. “This type of study is very cost-intensive, both for the purchase and analysis of drugs. The lack of falsified medicines in Cambodia and Tanzania are reassuring, but the presence of substandard medicines is definitely a concern."
Despite these results, researchers still warn that poor quality medicines do exist and increase the risk of harming patients and of malaria becoming drug-resistant.
"There is an urgent need to strengthen the capacity of national medicine regulation authorities to develop robust estimates of drug quality that are affordable, representative and timely,” Tanzania study leader Catherine Goodman from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said. “Our study saved costs by collecting samples within a nationally representative survey that was already in place."
Cambodia study lead author Shunmay Yeung from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said falsified medicines have received much attention globally, but substandard drugs are far more prevalent and of great concern.
“Not only do they leave patients with malaria undertreated, which could be fatal, but they may also contribute to the development of resistance to ACTs, the most effective drugs for malaria," Yeung said. "Generally, the fact that no falsified anti-malarials were identified reflects the positive impact of the country's effort to control drug quality."
Further details can be found in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.