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Tracking the Fake Malaria Drug Threat (Asia)

This article was originally published in PharmAsia News

Executive Summary

People living in tropical regions in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Burma have high incident rates of malaria, but today one of the biggest growing threats they face is the prevalence of fake and fraudulent anti-malaria drugs. A university team from Oxford University, Bangkok-based Mahidol University, and the Wellcome Trust have started studying incidents of fake antimalarial drugs. Professor Nick Day reports from Cambodia that "in some areas 30-50 percent, or even more than 50 percent of drugs you buy randomly from pharmacies are actually fake. They contain no active anti-malarial ingredient." Some of these drugs contain starch, some paracetamol, and some just enough anti-malarial artemisinin substance to pass testing. Fake anti-malarial medicine with a small amounts of a legitimate active ingredient could spark drug resistance in malarial strains, and so are even more dangerous than purely fake drugs. Africa today has around 90 percent of the world's cases of malaria, and a rise in fake drug imports into Africa would create a health crisis, says Day. Interpol senior investigator John Newton says that in South-East Asia most often it is ethnic Chinese who are involved in organizing trans-national fake anti-malaria drug rings. World Health Organization official Dr. Henk Bekedam says China's government has begun increasing efforts to crack down on fake pharmaceuticals being made in China, a trend many experts welcome and want to see more of. (Click here for more
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