'Millions at risk' from fake malaria drugsCounterfeit medicine circulated by criminalsMost products thought to originate from China2009 study finds 450,000 died from fake malaria pills
Millions of lives are at risk because of fake and substandard anti-malarial drugs, say experts.
Counterfeit medicines circulated by criminals could endanger patients and promote drug resistance among malaria parasites they warned.
The latest study funded by the Wellcome Trust calls for public authorities to take immediate action help tackle one of the world's deadliest diseases.
A study warns counterfeit medicines could endanger patients and promote drug resistance among malaria parasites
Researchers investigated fake and poor quality anti-malarial drugs sold in 11 African countries between 2002 and 2010.
Some of the counterfeits
were found to contain a mixture of incorrect pharmaceutical ingredients which would
initially alleviate the symptoms of malaria but not cure it.
Worse still, some of the ingredients could cause potentially serious side effects, particularly if combined with other medication that the patient was taking, such as anti-retroviral treatments for HIV.
Lead researcher Dr Paul Newton said: 'The enormous investment in the
development, evaluation and deployment of anti-malarials is wasted if
the medicines that patients actually take are, due to criminality or
carelessness, of poor quality and do not cure.'
'Malaria can be readily treated with the right drugs of good quality, but poor quality medicines, as well as increasing mortality and morbidity, risk exacerbating the economic and social impact of malaria on societies that are already poor.'
A 2009 study found 450,000 people died annually from fake malaria treatment
It was discovered that some of the fakes, believed to have originated in China, contain small quantities of
artemisinin derivatives – one of the most effective
drugs used to treat malaria.
It is thought that this addition is so counterfeit
products pass authenticity tests.
At this low level scientists warn that instead of destroying malaria parasites, the tablets could enable the body to build up a resistance to anti-malarial drugs.
This problem occurs with anti-malarials, and as a result the World Health Organisation encourages
artemisinins to be used in combination with other drugs, to
delay resistance developing.
Failure to take action will put at risk the lives of millions of people, particularly children and pregnant women
The researchers, from the Wellcome
Trust-Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research
Collaboration, published their work in the Malaria Journal.
Malaria is believed to kill around
800,000 people a year, mainly young children and pregnant women and is
caused by parasites injected into the bloodstream by mosquitoes.
Dr Newton has called for urgent measures from African governments to tackle counterfeit anti-malarials.
He added: 'Failure to take action will put at risk the lives of millions of people, particularly children and pregnant women.'
In 2001, police in Guangzhou, China, arrested Nigerian and Chinese men for production of counterfeits of the anti-malarial halofantrine and production facilities for packaging materials for counterfeit anti-malarials have been seized in Nigeria.
Meanwhile a 2009 study by International Policy Network found approximately 450,000 people died annually from fake malaria treatments, most of which originated from China and India.