World Health Organization: Some 11% of Drugs in Developing Countries Are Fake

Medicine in Afghanistan
Medication on display in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. The Afghan government has recently put new measures in place to try to curb the trade of counterfeit and illegal medications. Photo: Gustavo Montes de Oca/Flickr

About 1 in 10 drugs in poor countries are either substandard or falsified, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

The organization said counterfeit medicines are likely responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of children from such diseases as malaria and pneumonia every year.

Dr. Mariangela Simao, Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals at WHO, said many of the drugs, like antibiotics, are vital for people’s survival and wellbeing.

“Substandard or falsified medicines not only have a tragic impact on individual patients and their families, but also are a threat to antimicrobial resistance, adding to the worrying trend of medicines losing their power to treat,” she said in a statement.

Since 2013, WHO has received 1,500 reports of cases of counterfeit medicines. Antimalarials and antibiotics were the most commonly reported, according to the release. Most of the reports, or 42 percent, have come from the WHO African Region, while 21 percent originated in the WHO Region of the Americas, and another 21 percent from the WHO European Region.

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