Hopes of at last controlling malaria in Africa could be dashed by the emergence of poor quality and fraudulent anti-malarial medicines, warn experts writing in the Malaria Journal. Unless urgent action is taken both within Africa and internationally, they argue, millions of lives could be put at risk.
In a study published in the journal, an international team of researchers report cases of medicines on sale in Africa that have been deliberately counterfeited by criminals or are of poor quality resulting from factory errors. Both types are not only potentially harmful to the patient, but risk promoting the emergence of drug resistance amongst the parasites that cause the disease.
According to the World Malaria Report 2010, malaria killed an estimated 781,000 people in 2009, mainly young children and pregnant women. It is caused by parasites that are injected into the bloodstream by infected mosquitoes. The most effective anti-malarial drugs are the artemisinin derivatives which have the advantages over other anti-malarial drugs, such as chloroquine and mefloquine, of having few side-effects but the fastest action. Although the drugs have been used on their own as monotherapy, fears over the development of resistance mean that they are recommended for use in conjunction with one or more other drugs as artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), now recommended by the WHO as the first-line treatment for uncomplicated falciparum malaria globally.
There has been a dramatic rise in reports of poor quality and counterfeit anti-malarials in Africa. To find out more about the different types medicines circulating and what they contain, and to look for evidence as to where they may have come from, the researchers examined anti-malarials collected in eleven African countries between 2002 and 2010, which they believed to be either counterfeit or substandard.
Analysis of the medicines showed that some counterfeits contained a m
|Contact: Craig Brierley|