Post Event Summary
The trade in substandard and falsified pharmaceuticals is one of the most serious and overlooked public health problems facing developing countries today. The National Institute of Health's Guarvika Nayyar opened a conference at AEI on Tuesday by presenting new data that suggests falsified drugs are frighteningly common in developing countries. AEI's Roger Bate reinforced the point with his own research, emphasizing how difficult it is to gather data on the prevalence of substandard drugs because of resistance from drug producers.
The confluence of weak regulatory standards, lack of expertise in pharmaceutical production, inadequate enforcement and shortage of resources undermine safe drug markets, argued Patrick Lukulay of US Pharmacopeia. Leveraging international funds to scale up effective programs, increasing funds for enforcement measures and naming and shaming poor-quality drug producers would help, said the World Bank's Andreas Seiter.
But international efforts to improve drug quality are not always effective. Richard Tren of Africa Fighting Malaria highlighted the failures of the Global Fund's AMFm program, recounting how drug diversion and inept production and distribution caused serious drug shortages. Furthermore, Bernard Nahlen of USAID pointed out, malaria is over-diagnosed, leading international programs to focus disproportionately on treatment. Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa concluded that these myriad problems can only be addressed through a comprehensive legal framework that creates global criminal penalties for pharmaceutical counterfeiting.
Emerging markets are plagued by substandard and counterfeit medicines. A new study finds that up to a third of antimalarial drugs in emerging markets do not work, and though less data exist on other types of medicines, it is likely that other anti-infectives are equally shoddy. Many of these poor-quality products are counterfeits made by criminal organizations, but some are made by legal producers who endanger patients' lives and increase drug resistance by cutting corners to minimize their production costs. Even well-known producers may fail to maintain consistent quality for every batch. An expert panel will explore initiatives to actively combat poor-quality drugs and discuss what remains to be done.
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