Thursday, February 11, 2010

WHO: Poor Quality Drugs Used to Treat Malaria

Both the BBC and the Associated Press are reporting on a new World Health Organization study regarding the quality of drugs used to treat malaria in Africa.

The study goes into some depth regarding the findings that up to 40% of the artemisinin drugs used to treat malaria in poor African nations are of such poor quality they are ineffective in treating the disease. In addition because these poor quality drugs contain some of the active ingredient of the drugs, they are now causing drug resistant strains of malaria.

Here are some of the highlights from the BBC story:

  • The group, conducting the study for the World Health Organization, said low-grade drugs were being used in both public and private health practices.

  • Some 90% of malaria deaths in the world occur in Africa.

  • They found 44% of the drugs from Senegal failed the testing, followed by 30% from Madagascar and 26% from Uganda.

To read the entire BBC story, visit:

Some of the highlights of the Associate Press story which was published in the Chicago Tribune include:

  • Between 16 percent and 40 percent of artemisinin-based drugs sold in Senegal, Madagascar and Uganda failed quality testing, including having impurities or not containing enough active ingredients, the survey found.

  • Artemisinin-based drugs are the only affordable treatment for malaria left in the global medicine cabinet. Other drugs have already lost effectiveness due to resistance, which builds when not enough medicine is taken to kill all of the mosquito-transmitted parasites.

  • If artemisinin-based drugs stop working, there is no good replacement and experts worry many people could die.

  • "It is worrisome that almost all of the poor-quality data that was obtained was a result of inadequate amounts of active (ingredients) or the presence of impurities in the product," said Patrick Lukulay, director of a nongovernmental U.S. Pharmacopeia program funded by the U.S. government, which conducted the survey. "This is a disturbing trend that came to light."

  • The study is the first part of a 10-country examination of anti-malarials in Africa by the U.S. and the World Health Organization. It follows evidence from the Thai-Cambodian border that artemisinin-based drugs there are taking longer to cure malaria patients, the first sign of drug resistance.

  • The three-country report also found bad drugs in both the public and private health sectors, meaning governments — some buying medicines with donor funds — are not doing enough to keep poor-quality pills out. All of the drugs tested from the public sector in Uganda, however, passed the quality tests. But 40 percent of the artemisinin-based drugs in Senegal failed.

  • "There are countries where donated medicines are not subjected to quality controls, they're just accepted," said Lukulay. "There are countries in Africa where Chinese products have been donated and found to be unacceptable later in the public sector."

To read the entire Associated Press story, visit:,0,1354782.story.

This issue of counterfeit, fraudulent and adulterated medications, which is causing a deadly healthcare crisis around the globe, energizes the need for material screening of products within the supply chain, from raw materials to dispensing, to properly protect consumers everywhere.

To learn more about material authentication solutions, visit:

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