Thursday, December 30, 2010

WHO Fears Growing Malaria Drug Resistance May Be Spreading

WHO officials say counterfeit drugs and poor storage are to blame.

Ron Corben in the November 28th issue of the Voice of America News, reports on a story from the World Health Organization regarding the growing issue of malaria drug resistance in Asia primarily caused by adulterated, fraudulent, sub-standard and counterfeit medications.

Highlights from the Voice of America News article include:

• World Health Organization officials say there are signs of growing drug resistance to mosquito-borne malaria, raising concern millions of people in Asia may be at risk.

• The Asia region accounts for more than 60 per cent of the global population at risk of the parasite with the main focus on India, Burma, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

• But World Health Organization officials point to troubling signs a current drug combination based on artemisinin, originally drawn from a Chinese herb, is losing its potency against the malaria parasite.

• Artemisinin is largely given to patients in combination with other drugs rather than by itself in a bid to preserve the drug's long term effective strength.

• "The place where we are really concerned is on the Cambodian-Thai border," said Eva Marie Christophel a World Health Organization official in the Phillipines. "It would be disastrous if that spread because there's hardly anything in terms of new drugs in the pipeline for malaria or what is in the pipeline will take years, so we're really very much relying on arthemisinin based combination therapy."

• The World Health Organization is concerned that drug resistance could spread from the Cambodian-Thailand border region to Africa, following a similar pattern with anti-malaria drugs such as cloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine in the 1960s and 1970s.

• In February 2009, WHO confirmed anti-malarial resistance at the Cambodian-Thailand border. But recent WHO studies found up to 20 per cent of patients at the Burma-Thailand border also showed signs of malarial parasites in the blood after the normal artemisinin combination therapy.

• "We noticed years ago that the disappearance time for parasites to disappear from the blood is increasing. Usually they disappear in two days or less," said Dr. Charles Delacollette, coordinator of the Bangkok-based WHO Mekong Malaria Program. "And we observe that there are an increasing proportion of patients showing parasites, still parasites in their blood after two days of artemisinin treatment, which was not the case before."

• Dr. Delacollette says the growing drug resistance is in part due to the sale of substandard and counterfeit drugs. In recent years, authorities cracked down against illegal factories in China. Meanwhile, counterfeit producers have been found elsewhere, including Cambodia and Burma.

"Drugs are not quality, the quality of the drugs sold in private sector is selling any kind of drugs which are stored in very bad conditions, so they becoming substandard and also you have sellers which are selling counterfeit - purposely made counterfeit," said Dr. Delacollette.

The crime of adulterated, fraudulent, sub-standard and counterfeit drugs is a dangerous threat to populations around the globe.

To think that unscrupulous organized gangs can impact the health and well being of populations around the globe, especially for diseases and maladies that have long since been conquered by the advances in medical science is unconscionable.

Unfortunately the issue with malarial drugs is just the beginning of a much larger issue of drug resistant strains of diseases around the world. Drug resistant diseases know no borders and impact all societies, rich and poor.

The global supply chain must take proactive measures to protect their inventories from this insidious crime by deploying solutions to track and authenticate their inventories.

To read the entire Voice of America News story, visit:

To learn more about anti-counterfeiting technologies for pharmaceuticals, visit:

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