Fake Medicine, Genuine Risk
How can we fight the global pandemic of falsified and substandard medicines?
In April 2015, the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH) published over a dozen papers, alerting the world that falsified and substandard medicines risk the lives of up to four billion people (1). The supplement – “The pandemic of falsified medicines: laboratory and field innovations and policy perspectives” – presented 17 scientific articles that offered data and recommendations on developing a coordinated and effective response. Falsified and substandard medicines are a recognized problem on virtually all continents, and so can certainly be considered a pandemic. Moreover, the increasing global scientific awareness of the problem is evident by the number of articles on “fake drugs” cited in PubMed, which has increased ten-fold over the last 50 years (Figure available online) (3). Furthermore, government, public, company and surveillance reports of poor-quality medicines have been increasing in volume; however, it is likely just the tip of the iceberg – many cases still go un-, under-, or mis-reported (4). And poor-quality medicines are not just limited to anti-infective medications for developing countries, developed countries are also affected. Of course, there is debate on the extent and size of the problem, but ‘murder by medicine’ continues to be profitable (by some estimates a $75 billion criminal enterprise) with only minimal punishable consequences in many countries (5).
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