I recently wrote a blog about the dangers of buying medication over the Internet. An article in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal has recently found that a third of malaria drugs used around the world to stem the spread of malaria are actually counterfeit.
In this study, the authors reviewed published and unpublished studies reporting chemical analyses and assessments of packaging of antimalarial drugs. Out of nearly 1500 samples of drugs from seven countries in Southeast Asia, 35% failed chemical analysis. Data from 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa including over 2,500 drug samples showed similar results.
Malaria is preventable and curable. Last year there were about 216 million cases of malaria and an estimated 655 000 deaths worldwide. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa where a child dies every minute from malaria. Poor-quality antimalarial drugs lead to drug resistance and inadequate treatment, which pose an urgent threat to vulnerable populations and jeopardise progress and investments in combating malaria.
Clearly much of this mortality and morbidity could be avoided if these counterfeit drugs were not available. It is vitally important that high quality antimalarial drugs are given to patients. The study also demonstrated that there are insufficient facilities to monitor the quality of antimalarial drugs.
The World Health Organization is calling for renewed investment in diagnostic testing, treatment and surveillance for malaria.