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Researchers at the Welcome Trust- Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration have published a worrying report in the Malaria Journal highlighting the fact that fraudulent anti-malarials will impact hugely on mortality rates over the next year if action is not taken soon.

These fake, and in some cases, poor quality drugs, are entering the system all over the world but the problem is especially significant on the African continent at the moment. Between criminal activity and bad manufacturing standards and practices, it is unlikely patients will continue to benefit from the first line treatments since they are developing a resistance to treatment due to the quality of drugs available.

In order to ascertain how much fake treatment and poor quality treatments were out there, researchers collected data from 11 African nations between 2002 and 2010. They discovered that counterfeit drugs contained a number of active ingredients but they only treated the symptoms of malaria and not the disease itself. It was also discovered that the ingredients used had the potential to cause harmful side effects, especially when taken with other prescription treatments. Because these drugs contain minute amounts of artemisinin, one of the most frequently used treatments in Africa, but only enough so that the manufacturers pass validity tests. Patients taking the drugs will eventually develop a resistance to the bona fide treatments if the parasite is only exposed to small quantities of the active ingredient.

The leader of this research suggests that African regulatory authorities begin to increase their investments in quality control so that only the best quality treatments are available at affordable prices.

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