Fake and substandard prescription drugs are increasingly becoming a problem in less developed countries, a study has shown.
Nearly half the drugs sold in Angola, Burundi and the Congo are substandard, the report co-sponsored by the International Policy Network of London and the Health Policy Unit, a division of the Free Market Foundation of South Africa, claimed.
It also said about two-thirds of anti-malarial drugs available in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam contain insufficient active ingredients.
They estimated that fake tuberculosis and malaria drugs kill about 700 000 people year, a statement on the report said. Fake drugs also lead to increase levels of drug resistance.
SA laws has increased fake meds risk
The researchers said many countries have corrupt regulatory and legal systems that are easily exploited by criminal counterfeiters, so additional rules will only increase corruption.
The researchers believe that in South Africa, the government's laws on capping what pharmacists can charge for drugs, led to the closure of rural and township pharmacies and deprived the communities of trained pharmacists. This they allege, increases the risk of being exposed to fake medicines.
They propose identity preservation systems using unique codes verifiable through a simple text message and more effective trademark systems.
They also believe that overwhelming bureaucracy in trying to license or test a medicine contributes to the problem.
Report author Julian Harris was quoted as saying: "Many poor countries have weak or non-existent trademark laws, so it's no surprise that counterfeits are rife. A free press, free courts, and free trade would actually increase the quality of medicines." – (Sapa, May 2009)
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