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Report Finds Some Donated Malaria Drugs Are Being Stolen, Resold In Africa

Some of the malaria drugs given to Africa by international donors are “being stolen and resold on commercial markets,” according to a study to be released Thursday in the journal Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine, the Associated Press reports.

“During three periods from 2007 to 2010, American and British experts bought malaria medicines randomly from private pharmacies in 11 African cities. Of the 894 samples, they found 58, or 6.5 percent, were supposed to have been donated to government hospitals and clinics,” according to the news service. “The finding was particularly strong in artemesinin combination drugs [ACTs], the best available malaria drugs, and those often purchased by international donors. In 2007, they found about 15 percent of such donated drugs had been stolen for resale. This year, it was nearly 30 percent,” the news service writes.

Though the study indicates a percentage of the donated malaria medications are being sold on commercial markets, the authors of the study “acknowledge the sample sizes were small and could exaggerate the problem,” according to the AP.

The AP continues: “The donated medicines [analyzed in the study] were first bought by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative [PMI], a joint program led by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both the Global Fund and the President’s Malaria Initiative receive funds from international donors, including U.S. taxpayers.” According to the news service, “the Fund did not respond directly to questions about their drugs being stolen,” but a recent review showed “loopholes in its distribution system and admitted medicines could end up in commercial markets.”

The article also notes “an audit last year [.pdf] by” PMI that found “about $640,000 worth of medicines sent to Angola vanished from airports and the government’s medicines warehouse.”

The piece includes comments by study co-author Roger Bate, a fellow at American Enterprise Institute, who elaborates on the methods used to track the malaria drugs. Additionally, Tido von Schoen-Angerer of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Julian Harris of the International Policy Network, David Sullivan of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Henry Emboho Wanyama, a researcher in Uganda, are quoted in the piece (Cheng, 9/1).