The Real Fake-Drug Danger
Letter to the Editor

In his May 13 letter responding to my op-ed ("China's Bad Medicine," May 5), Peter Maybarduk obfuscates the definition of fake drugs. Illegally copying a trademark is an important indicator of counterfeiting, although not necessarily of substandard drug quality. It is not safe to assume that a drug being passed off as a brand will work the same as the brand, so trademark breaches are important warning flags for public health.

Real generics, the biological effects of which are proven to be the same as branded originals, should not be conflated with substandard products. But many of the products found in the poorest countries are neither brands nor generics--they are copy products of indeterminate quality.

For example, a 2008 World Health Organization report found fewer than 43% of the 187 antimalarial products on sale in Kenya were registered there and about 16% failed quality tests. India and China supplied 24% of the drugs, most of which were not registered in Kenya. Some of those drugs were probably of good quality, but some definitely weren't.

If China and India do not improve their own oversight of their producers, including using simple tools like assessing trademarks, then more people will continue to die needlessly.

Roger Bate is the Legatum Fellow in Global Prosperity at the AEI.

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