There is a global pandemic of counterfeit medications occurring, and the worst part is that no one knows the true scale or level of risk of the problem, according to 17 articles published in a special edition of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Collectively, teams of researchers from around the world, including from the US government, tested 17,000 drug samples and found that up to 41% failed to meet quality standards.
One study found that 127 of a total of 196 countries had no reliable supply chain counterfeit incident reporting systems. “Improvements in surveillance, including detection of security breaches, data collection, analysis, and dissemination are urgently needed to address public health needs to combat the global counterfeit medicines trade,” concluded the team of University of California San Diego researchers that led that study.
“The falsified drug problem is not new, just bigger than ever,” a press release about that study stated. “According to a 2000 World Health Organization report, almost one-third of identified counterfeit drugs contained no active ingredient; and more than 20 percent either had incorrect quantities of active ingredients or contained the wrong ingredients. Other fraudulent practices included false packaging and high levels of impurities. Each year, it’s estimated between 100,000 and 1 million people die from using counterfeit drugs.”
“The most important takeaway of our study is that we don’t have the necessary data or surveillance to effectuate meaningful public health interventions or policy change,” the lead author said in the press release.
Global pandemic of fake medicines poses urgent risk, scientists say (National Institutes of Health press release on MedicalXpress, April 20, 2015)
Falsified medicines taint global supply (University of California – San Diego press release on MedicalXpress, April 20, 2015)
Mackey, Tim K., Bryan A. Liang, Peter York, and Thomas Kubic. “Counterfeit Drug Penetration into Global Legitimate Medicine Supply Chains: A Global Assessment.” The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, April 20, 2015, 14–0389. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.14-0389. (Abstract and full text)
American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Special Edition (see April 20, 2015)