Fake malaria drugs damaging Africa's fight

Researchers have determined that poor quality and fake anti-malaria drugs are causing damage to the attempt to control the disease in Africa and could risk millions of lives.

In the study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, counterfeit medicines were found to potentially harm patients and promote drug resistance among malaria-causing parasites. Some of the fake drugs are said to have come from China, the BBC reports.

Researchers from Mahosot Hospital and the Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration examined substandard and fake anti-malaria drugs that were discovered on sale in 11 African countries from 2002 to 2010. Some counterfeits included the wrong pharmaceutical ingredients, which could alleviate symptoms but not cure the disease. Other ingredients could lead to potentially serious side effects.

The malaria parasite develops resistance to treatment drugs over time. The researchers warned that these counterfeit drugs could have the same effect on artemisinin, which is one of the most effective drugs currently being used. The report calls for urgent action by African governments to stop the propagation of these fake anti-malarials, according to the BBC.

"Failure to take action will put at risk the lives of millions of people, particularly children and pregnant women," Paul Newton, the lead researcher on the study, said, according to the BBC. "The enormous investment in the development, evaluation and deployment of anti-malarials is wasted if the medicines that patients actually take are, due to criminality or carelessness, of poor quality and do not cure."