Malaria Fight Hurt by Counterfeit Drugs
Counterfeit drugs claiming to treat malaria are hampering the real effort to fight the mosquito-borne illness is poor countries in Africa and South East Asia. According to ABC News, a new study from the U.K. group Wellcome Trust found that the fake and poor-quality drugs were distributed to the countries from China.
China is also home to the most effective anti-malarial treatment yet—an herb known as artemisinin. But while real pills treating malaria help to combat the parasite, the counterfeit drugs may actually encourage it to flourish as it develops immunity to low amounts of artemisinin.
“What the counterfeiters have done is basically watered down the level of drug in the tablet and then they’ve added in other things that will have no effect against the malaria parasite,” explained Aland Cowman of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Victoria. “The parasite will be able to grow but it’ll be in a lower concentration of the drug, not enough to kill it, but enough to enable it to get used to that level of drug and therefore it makes it more likely that it will develop resistance to that drug.”
Lead researcher Paul Newton says it’s difficult to gauge how many of the fake drugs are in circulation, but he estimated a “substantial” number close to hundreds of thousands.
He and his team traced the drugs back to China by looking at their pollen content and chemistry makeup. They plan to work with the authorities in China and Southeast Asia to help find those responsible for the counterfeit medication.