Poor quality medicines are a real and urgent threat that could undermine decades of successful efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, according to the editors of a collection of journal articles published April 20, 2015.
Scientists report up to 41 percent of specimens failed to meet quality standards in global studies of about 17,000 drug samples. 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 health and increase antimicrobial resistance. However, new methodologies are being developed to detect problem drugs at the point of purchase and show some promise, scientists say.
Seventeen articles in all, detailing various aspects of the issue and proposing possible solutions, are included in a special journal supplement “The Global Pandemic of Falsified Medicines: Laboratory and Field Innovations and Policy Perspectives,” published online ahead of print by The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Several articles suggest policy interventions, including an international framework and the adoption of stricter national laws against drug counterfeiting.
“This problem continues to spread globally, creating an even greater challenge to cooperation among stakeholders, many with limited resources,” notes the supplement’s co-editor, Joel Breman, M.D., M.P.H., senior scientist emeritus at the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. “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.”