Fake anti-malaria drugs put millions at risk

Updated: Jan 17, 2012, 15:17 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Fake and substandard anti-malarial drugs are being circulated in worst-hit areas of Africa, putting millions of lives at risks, a study has warned.

The fake drugs are said to have been made in East Asian countries, especially China.

The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, examined the counterfeit drugs samples collected between 2002 and 2010 in 11 countries.

The main ingredients being used in the anti-malarial is derived from the artemisinin plants. The World Health organisation had urged the usage of artemisinin in combination with other drugs to delay the development of resistance. Anti-malarials, after a time become ineffective as the parasites become resistant to them.

Malaria is a scourge of poor countries in the tropical part of the world. It kills nearly a million people each year. The fake medicines could promote drug resistance in the parasites that ACTs (artemisinin combination therapy) will no longer cure.

The study found that some of the fake medicines contain artemisinin, but not enough to kill the parasites and a mixture of wrong pharmaceutical ingredients, which could initially alleviate the symptoms of malaria but would not cure it. The wrong ingredients could also case serious side effects if they were mixed with other medication a patient might be taking, such as anti-retrovirals to treat HIV.

The lead researcher, Dr Paul Newton, said, "Malaria can be readily treated with the right drugs of good quality, but poor quality medicines, as well as increasing mortality and morbidity, risk exacerbating the economic and social impact of malaria on societies that are already poor."

The researchers have called for African governments to take urgent steps to tackle counterfeit anti-malarials.

"Failure to take action will put at risk the lives of millions of people, particularly children and pregnant women," said Dr Newton.