News / Health

Experts Say Poor Quality Drugs Hamper Malaria Fight

Vidushi Sinha
A new report says that as many as one third of the antimalarial drugs sold in south Asian and sub Saharan African countries are counterfeit or of such poor quality as to be ineffective. Experts say this not only jeopardizes the progress made against malaria in the past decade, but also is speeding the emergence of drug resistance in the malaria parasite.

Experts have known for years that fake, poor quality, and improperly-packaged drugs pose a serious public health threat in many developing countries.  

Now, a new study has found that many people infected with malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia are not getting treated because of counterfeit or poor quality antimalarial drugs.  

The lead author of the study, researcher Gaurvika Nayyar of the National Institutes of Health, said in a Skype interview the problem is widespread.

“While we have limited information [about] where these drugs are made and how they are produced... we do know that they are rampant in local shops, grocery stores, and even hospitals,” said Nayyar.

Nayyar said the survey discovered that a high percentage of the sampled drugs failed chemical analysis, had fake packaging or improper labeling or were being sold years beyond their expiration dates.

“While poor quality anti-malarial were available in seven south East Asian countries and 21 sub-Saharan African countries - this is just a tip of the iceberg,” said Nayyar.

Malaria kills as many as one million people each year.   

Scientists and public health experts say the single most important way to prevent these fatalities, and fatalities from other drug-treatable diseases, would be a regulatory system to protect the integrity of the global drug supply chain.

United States Pharmacopeial Convention [USP] is a nonprofit standard-setting organization that works to ensure the quality of medicines and food ingredients. Patrick Lukulay directs USP's drug-quality program.

“In every country there has to be a system to regulate. Without regulation, everything is at play and everything is possible. So regulators have to be strengthened. They have to be given an enabling environment so that they can really clamp down on illicit trade,” said Lukulay.

He said poor-quality drugs exist not only because the local manufacturers fail to maintain high standards, but also because some drug makers are pursuing quick profits. He said that in either case, these unreliable drugs are a menace to global health efforts.

“I believe that this has really led to the prolongation of neglected diseases in developing countries, whether it's malaria, TB or HIV/AIDS and the problem seems to be growing every day," said Lukulay.

Experts insist that drug makers found to have poor quality-control practices should be prosecuted. And standard-setting groups, such as USP, recommend clearer guidelines for regulators and better technologies for detecting poor drugs and flushing them quickly out of the market.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs