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Counterfeit and substandard anti-malaria drugs threaten crisis in Africa, experts warn
Date:1/17/2012

ixture of wrong active pharmaceutical ingredients, some of which may initially alleviate malaria symptoms but would not cure malaria. Worse still, these unexpected ingredients could cause potentially serious side effects, particularly if they were to interact with other medication that the patient was currently taking, such as antiretroviral therapies for HIV.

Some of the counterfeits also contained small amounts of artemisinin derivatives, perhaps to try to ensure that the drug would pass simple authenticity tests. Taken at such low levels, the drug is unlikely to rid the body of malaria parasites, leading to the emergence of strains of the parasite resistant to artemisinin.

The researchers also identified pollen found in some of the tablets, indicating that the counterfeit medicines originated in eastern Asia. Indeed, in 2001, police in Guangzhou, China, arrested Nigerian and Chinese men for production of counterfeits of the anti-malarial halofantrine. No evidence was found from the pollen analysis of counterfeit pharmaceutical production in Africa; however, production facilities for packaging materials for counterfeit anti-malarials have been seized in Nigeria.

Dr Paul Newton from the Wellcome Trust-Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration in Laos, who led the research, says: "Public health organisations must take urgent, coordinated action to prevent the circulation of counterfeit and substandard medicines and improve the quality of the medicines that patients receive. We must move finally away from the use of single drugs and towards the exclusive use of combination therapies. 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, a
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Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
Source:Eurekalert

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