Medical drug falsification mainly concerns those which are in high demand, such as antimalarials in African regions where malaria is endemic. IRD researchers (1) have examined the quality of antimalarial medicines available from informal distribution networks in Cameroon. They also assessed the impact of malaria patients’ taking these medicines, obtained on the illicit market, on their health. Self-medication is common but when it relies on supplies of poor-quality drugs it is ineffectual for controlling the disease. Quite the reverse, as it favours proliferation of treatment-resistant parasites leading to treatment failures and to people spending money futilely on health. Government measures for controlling such fraud are clearly necessary if public health is to be protected.
Large-scale diffusion and sale of medicines that do not comply with regulations or are poor in quality, especially in African countries, stems from several factors. These include: the intensification of trade, a growing demand for medical treatments or vaccines, a proliferation of small pharmaceutical industries, and inadequate regulation of manufacture and commerce of such products. Counterfeiting, which affects all classes of medical drugs, concerns mainly antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs. This is the case of antimalarials, under high demand in African countries where malaria is endemic. This demand sustains the informal trade of false or poor quality antimalarial drugs, which is the final stage for distribution networks of counterfeit medicines that escape any control by health authorities.
To assess the effect this illegal sector has on malaria control, an IRD team investigated the origin and quality of several antimalarial drugs in tablet or capsule form. They were purported to contain chloroquine, quinine or a sulfadoxin-pyrimethamin mixture. These medicines were collected between 2001 and 2002 on the markets, from street vendors or patients who had obtained supplies from outside official networks, in several towns and villages in Cameroon.
Bénédicte Robert | EurekAlert!
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