BETHESDA, Md. (CBSDC) — Successful efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, may be threatened by poor medicine quality, according to a collection of articles published Monday.
National Institutes of Health reports that 41 percent of specimens did not meet quality standards in global studies of roughly 17,000 drug samples. One article in the collection discovered falsified and low-quality malaria drugs which reportedly caused an estimated 122,350 child deaths in Africa during 2013.
Scientists say that new methodologies are underway to help detect medicine problems when they are purchased. Poor quality antibiotics, which may increase antimicrobial resistance, were also among the discoveries published in the collection.
“This problem continues to spread globally, creating an even greater challenge to cooperation among stakeholders, many with limited resources,” said supplement 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.”
It is unknown exactly how common counterfeit drugs are but it is estimated that falsified medicines account for a $75 billion market annually, as reported The Washington Post.
“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,” says Jim Herrington, Ph.D., M.P.H., co-editor of the supplement and director of the University of North Carolina’s Gillings Global Gateway at Chapel Hill.
When scientists inspected the quality of about 16,800 samples of anti-malarials, anti-tuberculosis medicines, antibiotics and anti-leishmaniasis drugs, they found that 9 to 41 percent failed to meet the specifications.
While scientists say new ways to test the quality of drugs are emerging, they continue to place emphasis on the need for a coordinated international response to address the global pandemic of fake medicines.
The individual articles will be published online at The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.