Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekend News Highlights International Epidemic of Counterfeit Medications

XStream Systems found an op-ed article in the New York Times regarding the health epidemic in the third world regarding poor quality and counterfeit medications and a story reported by Bloomberg News about the seizure of millions in counterfeit malaria, HIV and tuberculosis drugs in SE Asia.

The phenomenon of counterfeit, adulterated and contaminated pharmaceuticals continues to grow and flourish as our global economy declines.

Until technology solutions such as XStream’s XT250 become ubiquitous, this malady will continue to proliferate and impact those beyond the third world.

Op-ed: More needs to be done to ensure safety, quality of drugs in the developing world.

In an op-ed in the New York Times (11/15, A21), Roger Bate, author, director of the health advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria, and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote that, "if aid organizations are serious about combating the spread of deadly diseases in the developing world, they must do more to ensure the safety and quality of drugs."

According to Bate, the importations of counterfeit medicines "are only part of the problem." Bate explained that in order "deal with the scarcity of drugs, many poor governments have turned to local production." Still, "local producers often make low-quality" medicines. "Many poor countries," he wrote, "lack the regulatory structure needed to monitor safety and effectiveness. Some do not even have laws against selling substandard drugs, and none have sophisticated agencies like the" Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Bate concluded that aid organizations must first "give technical and financial support to governments' sincere efforts to maintain strict drug inspection standards." Second, they should "always refuse to subsidize any low-quality drugs." And finally, organizations need to "insist that only brand-name and generic products approved by stringent drug agencies like the FDA be distributed."

Interpol seizes more than $6.65 million of counterfeit medicines in Southeast Asia.

Bloomberg News (11/17, Bennett) reports, "Interpol seized more than $6.65 million of counterfeit medicines against malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis in Southeast Asia and made 27 arrests, disrupting the region's fake drug trade for the second time in three years."

According to Aline Plancon, an officer involved in the "five-month investigation called Operation Storm," officials "seized more than 16 million pills, including fake antibiotics for pneumonia and child-related illnesses." Operation Storm "involved almost 200 raids" conducted across "Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam."

Health officials were particularly concerned by "copies of a class of malaria drugs called artemisinins." Fake "artemisinin-based treatments containing small amounts of the medicine are helping the parasite responsible for malaria to evade authentic drugs in patients near Cambodia's border with Thailand, a recent study showed."

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