“Counterfeit, falsified, and substandard drugs are a dangerous threat to people around the world, including Americans,” therefore “we have a vital interest in ensuring the safety of an ever more complex global drug supply chain,” Jennifer White, a foreign service officer in the Office of International Health and Biodefense in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, writes in a post in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog. She notes that the “Department of State engages in the fight against counterfeit medicines using a multi-faceted approach,” including training foreign drug regulators; funding consumer outreach to raise awareness of the problem; being active in international bodies that address counterfeiting, such as the WHO; and “work[ing] in partnership with other U.S. government agencies, the health care community, patients, civil society, and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that patients receive safe medicines and that those who put patients’ lives at risk can be prosecuted” (5/22).
Study Shows Prevalence Of Drug-Resistant HIV Strains In Uganda Rising, Among Highest In Sub-Saharan Africa
“The prevalence of drug-resistant HIV strains in Uganda has risen from 8.6 percent to 12 percent in the last five years, one of the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent study,” PlusNews reports. “The PharmAccess African Studies to Evaluate Resistance (PASER) monitoring cohort study report for 2008-2012” — “which was based on results from the capital, Kampala, the western town of Fort Portal, and the eastern town of Mbale” — “found that the prevalence of transmitted drug resistance among people who have never taken life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) medication was substantially higher in Uganda” than in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, the news service writes.
“Low-quality and fake anti-malarial drugs flooding into markets in Asia and Africa are driving drug resistance and threatening gains made in the fight against the disease in the past decade, according to a study” conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published Monday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, Reuters reports (Kelland, 5/21). In an analysis of “27 sets of tests of antimalarial drugs purchased in Southeast Asia and Africa between 1999 and 2010,” “[a]bout a third of the drug samples from both continents failed,” the New York Times writes, noting, “Some were clearly criminal counterfeits, some were expired drugs that had been repackaged and some were poorly made with too little active ingredient” (McNeil, 5/21).
The Globe and Mail reports on “a massive resurgence of malaria [in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] that has baffled scientists and raised doubts about the global fight against the deadly scourge.” “Malaria is already the single biggest killer in Congo, with nearly 200,000 people dying annually, and now the trend is worsening,” the newspaper writes, noting that “the number of malaria patients has soared by a stunning 250 percent … since 2009,” according to data from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a potential public-private partnership that aims to bring tuberculosis (TB) vaccine trials to the gold mines of Southern Africa, where, “[f]or every 100,000 workers …, 3,000 have tuberculosis, and many have often-fatal, drug-resistant strains of TB.” The blog writes that mining company “Anglo American announced Tuesday at the GBCHealth Conference [in New York] that it has agreed in principle to make its mines available for TB vaccine trials organized by Aeras, a non-profit that has 12 TB vaccine candidates now in various stages of research,” noting, “No formal agreement has been reached, but Anglo American’s spokesman vowed to make it happen.”
In this Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Jay Winsten, associate dean at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Trish Stroman, a principal at the Boston Consulting Group, examine “the emergence in Southeast Asia of malarial parasites resistant to artemisinin — the current gold-standard drug for treating the disease,” writing it “poses grave new challenges.” Winsten and Stroman recount a brief history of artemisinin resistance in the region and note, “While many affected countries in the region are taking swift countermeasures, the situation remains serious in Burma,” also known as Myanmar.
“Malaria-carrying mosquitoes in Africa and India are becoming resistant to insecticides, putting millions of lives at greater risk and threatening eradication efforts, health experts said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 5/15). Experts fear resistance “could reverse the recent drop in malaria mortality credited to insecticide spraying in the home and coating of bed nets, which save about 220,000 children’s lives each year, according to the WHO,” Nature writes, adding, “Insecticide resistance could also result in as many as 26 million further cases a year, the organization predicts, costing an extra $30 million to $60 million annually for tests and medicines” (Maxmen, 5/15).
The New York Times and the Financial Times examine concerns expressed by AIDS activists and members of an FDA panel that last week recommended Gilead Sciences’ antiretroviral drug Truvada be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. According to the New York Times, “Such a pill has long been a goal of research, something that might help stem a global epidemic that is still causing two million new worldwide cases each year, including 50,000 in the United States” (Grady, 5/14). The Financial Times says some have concerns over the real world efficacy of the drug; whether its approval would encourage reckless behavior, such as not using condoms; side effects that might require additional treatment; the development of drug-resistant HIV strains; and the cost of the drug.
“If you had $75 billion to spend over the next four years and your goal was to advance human welfare, especially in the developing world, how could you get the most value for your money?” Bjorn Lomborg, an author and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, asks in this opinion piece in Slate Magazine’s “Copenhagen Consensus 2012” section. “That is the question that I posed to a panel of five top economists, including four Nobel laureates, in the Copenhagen Consensus 2012 project,” he writes, noting, “The panel members were chosen for their expertise in prioritization and their ability to use economic principles to compare policy choices.”
“A third of the world’s population is carrying tuberculosis [TB], and the disease could become incurable if governments fail to act, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned,” noting that a “[l]ack of funding for public health programs, the sale of inaccurate blood tests and the misuse of drugs, particularly in the private health sector, are hampering the fight against the disease and leading to drug resistance,” the Independent reports. “The rate of TB deaths had declined dramatically — by 40 percent between 1990 and 2000 — after a worldwide health campaign, which was particularly successful in China,” but “the emergence of drug-resistant strains threatens to halt progress and jeopardizes the WHO’s goal of eradicating the disease as a public health problem by 2050,” the newspaper writes, noting, “Two billion people are carriers of the TB bacillus” globally.