Counterfeit drugs and medical devices in developing countries
Beverley D Glass
School of Pharmacy and Molecular Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia
Abstract: The World Health Organization has reported that counterfeit medicines potentially make up more than 50% of the global drug market, with a significant proportion of these fake products being encountered in developing countries. This occurrence is attributed to a lack of effective regulation and a weak enforcement capacity existing in these countries, with an increase in this trade resulting from the growing size and sophistication of drug counterfeiters. In addition, due to both cost and lack of availability of medicines, consumers in developing countries are more likely to seek out these inexpensive options. The World Health Organization is mindful of the impact of counterfeit drugs on consumer confidence in health care systems, health professionals, the supply chain, and genuine suppliers of medicines and medical devices. Antibiotics, antituberculosis drugs, and antimalarial and antiretroviral drugs are frequently targeted, with reports of 60% of the anti-infective drugs in Asia and Africa containing active pharmaceutical ingredients outside their pharmacopoeial limits. This has obvious public health implications of increasing drug resistance and negating all the efforts that have already gone into the provision of medicines to treat these life threatening conditions in the developing world. This review, while focusing on counterfeit medicines and medical devices in developing countries, will present information on their impact and how these issues can be addressed by regulation and control of the supply chain using technology appropriate to the developing world. The complexity of the problem will also be highlighted in terms of the definition of counterfeit and substandard medicines, including gray pharmaceuticals. Although this issue presents as a global public health problem, outcomes in developing countries where counterfeit drugs to treat malaria, tuberculosis, and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome not only result in drug resistance, but a number of deaths from the untreated disease, is in stark contrast with the developed world, where lifestyle drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra®) are most commonly counterfeited.
Keywords: counterfeit, medicines, devices, developing countries, drug resistance, public health
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