U.S. Taxpayers Fund Poor Drugs for Poor Nations

Resident Fellow Roger Bate
Resident Fellow
Roger Bate
New field research shows that a third of anti-malaria drugs collected in six African cities fail at least one quality test--and aid agencies continue to fund untested substandard drugs: poor medicine for poor people.

The World Health Organization suggests that one-fifth of the approximately one million children who die every year from malaria die because of substandard and poorly prescribed medicines.

In our sample of anti-malarial drugs sold in six African countries, we found 32 percent of those produced in Asia failed basic quality tests, as did 48 percent of those made in Africa, described in our paper published on May 7 in the U.S. Public Library of Science peer-reviewed medical journal PLoS One.

No U.S. legislator has asked why U.S. tax dollars are buying untested drugs, even though these drugs can endanger the people they were purchased to help.

Fake medicines are an increasing problem in richer nations, too. Fake Chinese heparin caused the deaths of at least 81 Americans; fake Viagra, cholesterol drugs and painkillers are also increasingly prevalent across the United States and Europe.

But while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the WHO, Interpol and European health and law enforcement agencies are doing their best to crack down on the major counterfeiters, taxpayer-funded aid agencies--including the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria--are still financing sales of untested and often poor, medicines to poor people.

Nirj Deva, Member of the European Parliament for the South East of England and the British Conservative Party's spokesman for International Development, asked the European Commission in March why it was funding "medicines in the developing world that would not in any instance be approved for use on EU citizens?"

Europe's Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, provided a long-winded answer in which he admitted that "stimulating competition" to lower drug prices was the main reason--although he made no mention of the local tariffs that inflate those prices in many poor countries.

U.S. taxpayers support roughly a third of the Global Fund's budget--close to a billion dollars a year--but no U.S. legislator has asked why U.S. tax dollars are buying untested drugs, even though these drugs can endanger the people they were purchased to help, and may not lower prices.

After all, the German aid agency GTZ has reported that drugs produced locally in Ghana are often more expensive than imports from India, China, or Europe. Their effectiveness is even more debatable. The Global Fund only requires that the drugs come from facilities that can show good manufacturing practices (GMP), which means, in effect, a company that can produce aspirin is considered acceptable for producing more complex, and potentially harmful, anti-malaria drugs.

Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Roger
Bate

What's new on AEI

Expanding opportunity in America
image Moving beyond fear: Addressing the threat of the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria
image Foreign policy is not a 'CSI' episode
image The Air Force’s vital role
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.