A pandemic of “fake drugs” would be responsible each year for the death of more than 250,000 children. A team of doctors is calling for an urgent international effort to strengthen controls.
Fake drugs and poor-quality treatments (not enough active ingredients, or simply outdated) to treat malaria, pneumonia and other diseases kill more than 250,000 children every year worldwide, warns a new report. About 10% of drugs in the world would be affected, according to the report. Most would be in circulation in low-income countries. In these areas, the demand for drugs is high and the controls are poor. Such environments are favored by cartels, who take the opportunity to infiltrate the market.
Recent field tests have found traces of printer ink, paint, or arsenic in some substances. Antimalarials, antibiotics and drugs to treat cardiovascular disease and cancer seem to be the most affected. Most of these counterfeits probably come from China and India, the report mentions.
As a result, a team of doctors is calling for a strong response from the international community. They consider the treatment of these falsified and substandard medicines as a “public health emergency”. Note also that in addition to not treating correctly, these fake drugs participate in the disturbing phenomenon of antimicrobial resistance. They promote the proliferation of super-bacteria. “We need to take immediate action,” says Joel Breman of the National Institutes of Health in the United States.
The doctors propose some measures. For example, the need to strengthen the World Health Organization’s (WHO) drug monitoring program. They also urge that counterfeit drug registers in circulation be freely available to the public. Regarding penalties for violators, doctors are asking for extradition agreements to be put in place so that suspects can be tried in their countries. In the “victim” country, disciplinary measures are often insufficient.
Joel Breman and his team are also asking pharmaceutical companies to further tighten the supply chain for their drugs. It will also be necessary to develop simple and rapid tests so that doctors can verify in the field the quality of the drugs to be prescribed.