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Governments Urged To Tackle Scourge Of Fake Drugs

Governments Urged To Tackle Scourge Of Fake Drugs


London, 29 March 2018: Governments are being urged to crack down on the trade in fake and shoddy drugs which is thought to be killing hundreds of thousands of people every year.
 
A recent report by the World Health Organization estimated that one in 10 drugs sold in Africa are "falsified or substandard". These can range from drugs which could kill or seriously injure a patient to medicines containing little or no active ingredient, which could prolong an illness. Fake antibiotics are a particular problem because they can aid the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
 
Now, a group of organisations including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Harvard Global Health Institute have urged governments and law enforcement agencies to take a tougher line on the criminal organisations and companies that are flooding the market with these drugs.
 
They have called for a stronger legal framework, tougher penalties and much more rigorous enforcement, targeting criminal networks that operate across countries and drive the traffic in falsified and substandard medicines.
 
Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said that a range of legitimate and criminal organisations were behind the trade in both fake and substandard medicines.
 
“It goes from honest companies that don’t have good processes, to companies which make high quality products during the day and then at night make low quality products that sell to different markets, to organised crime syndicates,” he said.
 
In the first four years of WHO's global surveillance scheme for falsified and substandard drugs 1500 products were reported - these include everything from a single dose to millions of doses of one drug. However, this number is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
 
Fake anti-malarial drugs were the most commonly reported, followed by antibiotics, then painkillers and “lifestyle products” such as diet pills and erectile dysfunction treatments.
 
Fake drugs are a problem in all countries of the world, but disproportionately affects lower and middle income countries, where it is thought that between 30 and 60 per cent of drugs are fake.
 
WHO has also changed its definitions of fake drugs to end confusion between substandard and falsified products and the protection of intellectual property rights.
 
Prof Jha urged lower income countries to tighten their procedures.
 
“There are little to no active surveillance programmes to assess quality of medicines in lower and middle income countries. And often ministers of health deny there’s a problem out of a sense of shame,” he said.
 
But he added that while regulatory procedures in western countries were much stronger the trade in medicines online has led to easier access to fake drugs. Ritalin, for example, is licensed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but is sometimes used by school and university students during exams to aid their concentration.
 
“The first dose you try may only contain 50 per cent of the active ingredient so next time you decide to take two pills instead of one. But that contains a higher dose and you may end up having a severe reaction,” said Prof Jha.
 
The organisations, which made their call at a conference in London, also urged countries to improve regulatory procedures and that patients and health workers carefully check whether treatments work. They also called for an increase in the supply of cheaper generic drugs so that the poorest people are no longer forced to buy fake drugs. 
 
Michael Deats, an expert in falsified and substandard drugs from WHO, said: “Substandard and falsified medicines cause deaths, disabilities and hospitalizations. They  are a pervasive and persistent problem affecting all types of medicines and all regions of the world.”  telegraph.co.uk