Scientists from the United States have found that 1 in 5 of all medicines in Africa is either substandard or falsified.

In a series of 265 studies comprising of 400,647 drug samples, researchers found that 13.6 percent of medicine in underprivileged African communities is falsified or substandard. Nineteen percent accounts for antimalarials and 12.4% for antibiotics.

Most falsified medicines circulate in Malawi, while South Africa has little issue with substandard medications.

The majority of inadequate medicine exists in 63 low-income and middle-income countries. More than 13 percent of essential medicines in developing nations do not meet healthcare standards.

That number rises to 19 in Africa.

Sachiko Ozawa, an associate professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and his team discovered that antibiotics and antimalarials are the most problematic medicines.

Ozawa stated:

“[This] is a substantial public health problem because these medicines can be ineffective or harmful and can prolong illnesses‚ cause poisoning or lead to dangerous drug interactions. Our study shows that a concerted global effort is needed to improve supply chain management for medicines and to identify solutions to this understudied issue.”

Co-author James Herrington states that in order to improve drug quality, global collaboration to implement greater surveillance and data sharing is necessary.

Herrington stated:

“This can strengthen the global supply chain against poor-quality medicines‚ improve health outcomes by reducing antimicrobial and anti-parasitic resistance and‚ ultimately‚ help governments‚ businesses and patients save money.”

The estimated economic impact ranges from $10 billion to $200 billion. Defective medicines burden the health and pharmaceutical systems by diverting resources to harmful treatments, which prolongs illnesses.

As mentioned by Ozawa and Herrington, even though this epidemic is mostly affecting the developing world, its influence is international.

Investigators wrote:

“The global nature of the medicine supply chain implies that weaknesses in any country in the supply chain affect all the countries downstream. Without such concerted global effort, the global supply chain, and thereby every country within it, remains vulnerable to SF medicines.”

Falsified medicines or counterfeit disguise their identity, composition or source to pass as a legitimate drug. Meanwhile, substandard medicines are legitimate that do not meet quality standards. For example, medicine could be past expiration, stored in poor conditions, or have a manufacturing defect.


Featured Image via GoodFreePhotos.