International action needed to ensure the quality of medicines and tackle the fake drugs trade

November 13, 2012

Their call comes just days before 100 World Health Organisation member states hold their first meeting to discuss the problem, and the authors hope it will help to influence the debate and lead to some concrete actions.

The lethal in the US due to contaminated has again highlighted the serious consequences of this global problem. Other recent examples include a heart medicine containing a toxic overdose of a , which led to 125 deaths in Pakistan, and a fake cancer medicine containing starch and trafficked to Canada and the US. The extent of harm to patients is still unknown.

Substandard and fake medicines harm and kill patients, write an international group of experts led by Amir Attaran from the University of Ottawa in Canada, with the help of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, International Pharmaceutical Federation and the International Council of Nurses.

In poor countries, the estimates that over 10% of medicines may be "counterfeit" and, although medicine safety is better in rich countries, still cause thousands of adverse reactions and some deaths. In the European Union medicines are now the leading illegitimate product seized at the border, increasing 700% from 2010 to 2011.

Yet despite years of debate, no agreement on how best to tackle this scandal has been reached, they argue.

They say that progress on the twin challenges of safeguarding the quality of genuine medicine and criminalising falsified ones "has been held back by controversy over and confusion over terms."

They believe that to move forward, several challenges must first be overcome.

For example, anti-counterfeiting laws must shift from protecting commercial interests to protecting public health interests; there must be clear, internationally agreed definitions for different types of illegitimate medicines; and more transparent surveillance and research is needed to measure the global scale of the problem.

"We argue that tackling the challenges of poor quality, unsafe medicines requires a comprehensive global strategy on which all stakeholders agree," say the authors.

They point to other global treaties, for example on human trafficking or money laundering, that "have helped governments strengthen their laws and cooperate internationally to clamp down on the havens."

They also point out that under today's leading treaty – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) - the law is now tougher on fake tobacco than on fake medicines.

They urge WHO to embark on a similar process to that used to create the FCTC, which they believe "avoids unnecessary controversy and can better enable governments, companies, advocates, and the health professions to protect the public's health."

Explore further: Internet led to global 'explosion' of fake drugs

More information: www.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.e7381

Related Stories

Internet led to global 'explosion' of fake drugs

June 14, 2012
The rapid growth of Internet commerce has led to an explosion of counterfeit drugs sold around the world, with China the biggest source of fake medicines, pharmaceutical experts said Thursday.

Fake malaria drugs threaten crisis in Africa

January 17, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- The emergence of fake and poor quality anti-malarial drugs could dash hopes of controlling malaria in Africa, warn experts writing in the Malaria Journal. Millions of lives could be put at risk unless ...

New technology represents next-generation tool for detecting substandard and counterfeit medicines

July 26, 2012
A new platform for detecting substandard and counterfeit medicines using microfluidics has been recognized with a grant from Saving Lives at Birth's "Grand Challenge through Development." Dubbed PharmaCheck, the technology ...

Poor-quality antimalarial drugs threaten to jeopardize progress made in malaria control over past decade

May 21, 2012
Poor-quality and fake antimalarial drugs are leading to drug resistance and inadequate treatment that is endangering global efforts made to control and eliminate malaria over the past 10 years, according to a review of the ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

At-risk chronic pain patients taper opioids successfully with psychological tools

June 28, 2017
Psychological support and new coping skills are helping patients at high risk of developing chronic pain and long-term, high-dose opioid use taper their opioids and rebuild their lives with activities that are meaningful ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.