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Fake Medication is a Global Problem

Apr 21, 2015 02:50 PM EDT
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Fake medication - that is, those that fail to meet quality standards - is a global problem, threatening not just public health but important advancements in medicine as well.

A team of scientists reported in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene that in global studies of about 17,000 drug samples, up to 41 percent of specimens failed to meet quality standards. Among the collection is an article describing the discovery of falsified and substandard malaria drugs that caused an estimated 122,350 deaths in African children in 2013. Other studies identified poor quality antibiotics, which may harm our health and increase antimicrobial resistance - a problem that currently has developed nations like the United States utterly surrounded.

What's more, these kinds of poor quality medicines could undermine decades of successful efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, researchers say. However, new methodologies are being developed to detect problem drugs at the point of purchase and show some promise for stopping this global pandemic.

"This problem continues to spread globally, creating an even greater challenge to cooperation among stakeholders, many with limited resources," study co-editor Joel Breman, senior scientist emeritus at the National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Center, said in a statement. "The need is urgent for collaboration among those with expertise in policy, science, technology, surveillance, epidemiology and logistics, in order to secure global supply chains."

"Today's medical-product landscape blurs the line between domestic and foreign production," added former US Food and Drug Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, "drawing attention to the need for global quality and safety oversight to prevent patient exposure to falsified products."

During the research, scientists inspected the quality of about 16,800 samples of anti-malarials, anti-tuberculosis medicines, antibiotics and anti-leishmaniasis drugs. Sadly, it turns out that nine to 41 percent of them failed to meet quality specifications.

"The pandemic of falsified and substandard medicines is pervasive and underestimated, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where drug regulatory systems are weak or non-existent, as shown by field studies in the supplement," explained Jim Herrington, who was involved in the research.

However, there is hope that soon this fake medication may come to an end. Already new ways for testing drug quality are emerging, including simple paper-based test cards and fluorescent and luminescent techniques. Though, researchers recommend a more proactive approach, such as an international framework and the adoption of stricter national laws against drug counterfeiting.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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