The burden of malaria is made worse when medicines consumed to treat the disease are either fake/counterfeit or substandard. This may result from intentional and illegal processes or as a result of poor shipping and storage procedures that reduce efficacy or allow expiration. Over 15% of drugs sold may be fakes.
Two recent initiatives hope to prevent the consumption of counterfeit malaria drugs.Â JustMeans.com reports on a way to empower consumers in detecting fakes in Ghana and Nigeria. “Ghanaian social enterprise MPedigree and Hewlett Packard have launched a lifesaving service that will combat counterfeit pharmaceuticals by enabling people in Ghana and Nigeria to verify the authenticity of their malaria medication via text message.”
A scratch-off code found on the medicine packaging can be texted to a free number to verify the drug’s authenticity. Local pharmaceutical companies are actively involved in the process.
A second approach is being made possible through pilot activities of the Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria (AMFm), which is being managed by the Global Fund. AMFm intends to make appropriate approved malaria medicines available in public and private settings at prices comparable to the old first-line drugs, chloroquine and sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine. This will hopefully drive unapproved and potentially fake medicines from the market.
In Nigeria, “the official take off of the (AMFm) project in January … appears set to halt malaria related deaths from its communities by making available high quality, affordable and effective Artemisinine-based Combination Therapy (ACT) through the public, private, non-profit and for-profit organizations to all its citizens.” ACTs, which are normally quite expensive, will become more accessible.
As malaria elimination efforts become more effective. Timely surveillance and treatment will become even more important. Other tools like the use of minilabs can help. All efforts must be focused on maintaining the quality of our malaria drug supplies in order to reduce morbidity and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.