Posted on Aug 11, 2018, 2 a.m.
Substandard falsified medications including those to treat malaria have been found to be a serious problem in much of the developing world. Upwards of 13% of essential medicines to satisfy priority health care need fall into this category in low to middle income countries, specifically African countries where this rises to nearly 19%, as published in JAMA Network Open.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina analyzed 96 studies on falsified and substandard medication, each of the studies tested upwards of 50 medications and found that antimalarials at 19% and antibiotics at 12% were most commonly sold in falsified or substandard conditions in low to middle income countries.
Medicines that are substandard are actual medical products failing to meet quality standards for one reason or another such as being expired, poor manufacturing, or faulty shipping or storage conditions. Falsified medications are products intentionally fraudulently misrepresented of source, identity, or composition. Prevalence of such products is a serious health problem as these medicines most times are ineffective and can be harmful and/or prolong illnesses, cause poisoning or dangerous drugs interactions.
Five databases were searched to find studies related to such products, researchers reviewed 256 studies of which 96 were included in their analysis which found limited information on economic impact of poor quality medicines estimating market size ranging from $10 to $200 billion. These products burden health care systems by diverting resources to ineffective or harmful therapies and cause additional treatment costs as well as decrease worker productivity due to treatable illness, effects which have not yet been measured.
Researchers suggest that more global collaboration to implement laws on drug quality, data sharing, improvement of surveillance, and increasing quality control capacity are needed, which can strengthen the global supply chain against poor quality medications, improve health outcomes, and help governments, businesses, and patients save money.
Materials provided by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Sachiko Ozawa, Daniel R. Evans, Sophia Bessias, Deson G. Haynie, Tatenda T. Yemeke, Sarah K. Laing, James E. Herrington. Prevalence and Estimated Economic Burden of Substandard and Falsified Medicines in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. JAMA Network Open, 2018; 1 (4): e181662 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.1662