By Michelle Roberts
Health editor, BBC News online
Researchers who looked at 1,500 samples of seven malaria drugs from seven countries in South East Asia say poor-quality and fake tablets are causing drug resistance and treatment failure.
Data from 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa including over 2,500 drug samples showed similar results.
Experts say The Lancet Infectious Diseases research is a “wake-up call”.
The US researchers from the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health who carried out the work believe the problem may even be much greater than data suggests.
“Most cases are probably unreported, reported to the wrong agencies, or kept confidential by pharmaceutical companies,” say the researchers.
No large studies of drug quality have been carried out in China or India – countries that house a third of the world’s population and are a “probable” source of many counterfeit drugs as well as genuine antimalarial medicines, they say.
Lead researcher Gaurvika Nayyar stressed that 3.3 billion people were at risk of malaria, which is classified as endemic in 106 countries.
“Between 655,000 and 1.2 million people die every year from Plasmodium falciparum infection,” he said. Read more…