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1 in 10 medical products in developing countries are fake

CONCERN: Employees from Ivory Coast's health ministry raid a shop selling counterfeit drugs at the Adjame market in Abidjan earlier this year. (Photo credit: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

AN ESTIMATED 1 in 10 medical products circulating in low- and middle-income countries, including those in the Caribbean, is either substandard or falsified, according to new research from the World Health Organization (WHO).

As a result, many people are taking medicines that fail to treat or prevent disease. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said: “Substandard and falsified medicines particularly affect the most vulnerable communities.

"Imagine a mother who gives up food or other basic needs to pay for her child’s treatment, unaware that the medicines are substandard or falsified, and then that treatment causes her child to die. This is unacceptable. Countries have agreed on measures at the global level – it is time to translate them into tangible action.”

According to Caribbean 360, since 2013, WHO has received 1500 reports of cases of substandard or falsified products. Of these, antimalarials and antibiotics are the most commonly reported. Most of the reports (42%) come from the WHO African Region, 21% from the WHO Region of the Americas, and 21% from the WHO European Region.

“Many of these products, like antibiotics, are vital for people’s survival and wellbeing,” added Dr Mariângela Simão, Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals at WHO. “Substandard or falsified medicines not only have a tragic impact on individual patients and their families, but also are a threat to antimicrobial resistance, adding to the worrying trend of medicines losing their power to treat”.

This study was based on more than 100 published research papers on medicine quality surveys done in 88 low- and middle-income countries involving 48 000 samples of medicines. However, lack of accurate data means that these estimates are just an indication of the scale of the problem.

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