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Antimalarials, antibiotics most faked, substandard in African countries—US Report

Latest report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has substantiated fears of several drug regulatory agencies in African countries that substandard and falsified medicines, including medicines to treat malaria and notable antibiotics are faked more in Africa than other parts of the world.

Substandard and falsified medicines can burden health systems by diverting resources to ineffective or harmful therapies and cause death or additional treatment costs and reduced worker productivity due to treatable illnesses, but these effects have not been measured.

The report revealed that in low- and middle-income countries, more than 13 percent of the essential medicines that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population fall in this category.

On African countries, the report averred that the portion of substandard and falsified medicines rises to almost 19 percent.

Falsified medicines are medical products that deliberately and fraudulently misrepresent their identity, composition or source.

Substandard medicines are real medical products that fail to meet quality standards or specifications for a variety of reasons, including poor manufacturing, shipping or storage conditions, or because the drug is sold beyond its expiration date.

Researchers analyzed 96 previous studies of falsified and substandard medicines and each of the studies tested more than 50 medications.

The team found that antimalarials and antibiotics were the medicines most commonly sold in substandard or falsified conditions. In low- and middle-income countries, 19 percent of antimalarials and 12 percent of antibiotics are substandard or falsified.

The paper was published in the journal JAMA Network Open was prepared by Dr Sachiko Ozawa, an Associate Professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, who led the research along with collaborators.

According to him, “The prevalence of substandard and falsified medicines is a substantial public health problem because these medicines can be ineffective or harmful and can prolong illnesses, cause poisoning or lead to dangerous drug interactions.”

“Our study shows that a concerted global effort is needed to improve supply chain management for medicines and to identify solutions to this understudied issue,” Dr Ozawa said.

The researchers searched five databases for studies related to substandard and falsified medicines. They reviewed 256 studies and included 96 studies in their analysis.

“We need more global collaboration to implement laws on drug quality, increase quality control capacity, and improve surveillance and data sharing,” said James Herrington, a professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a co-author of the study.

“This can strengthen the global supply chain against poor quality medicines, improve health outcomes by reducing antimicrobial and anti-parasitic resistance and, ultimately, help governments, businesses and patients save money.”

The team’s analysis found limited information on the economic impact of poor quality medicines, with the estimates of market size ranging widely from $10 billion to $200 billion.

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