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Substandard, Fake Medicines Continue To Harm Patients Most In Need Of ‘Cheap, Good Medicine’

“Over the past six years, my research group has sampled thousands of medicines used to treat tuberculosis, malaria, and major bacterial infections in emerging markets,” Roger Bate, author and adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece, noting “just over five percent of products failed quality-control tests.” He continues, “Given that probably over 100 million people around the world take Indian drugs every week, if one in 20 of those drugs doesn’t work, millions of patients are not taking the medicines they need.” Bate focuses on Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers and discusses a recent investigation into maternal health products sold in Ghana.

In one study, “[w]hen [medicines made by Indian manufacturers] were sold in India or in other wealthier emerging markets, five of 54 samples (nine percent) failed quality-control tests. But when the same products were sold by the same companies in Africa, 13 of 37 samples (35 percent) failed,” Bate writes. “Put simply, these companies, including ones certified by the WHO, are capable of making good products, at least most of the time,” he states, adding, “Yet the products they send to Africa are up to four times more likely to fail basic quality tests, putting the lives of patients across the continent at risk.” He concludes, “[W]ith insufficient resources to combat substandard drug manufacturing and little regulatory harmonization across borders, … companies will continue to sell bad drugs to the countries and their people who are most in need of cheap, good medicine — and most vulnerable when poor substitutes fail them” (10/4).