By Chinyere Onyeaghala, AfricaSTI Abuja
A new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases research has found that a third of malaria drugs used in Sub-Saharan Africa are substandard.
The researchers gathered data from 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa including over 2,500 drug samples and found that there were counterfeit.
Researchers from the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health who conducted the study also looked at 1,500 samples of seven malaria drugs from seven countries in South East Asia and concluded that poor-quality and fake tablets were responsible for drug resistance and treatment failure.
The researchers were of the opinion that the problem may even be much greater than the data suggested. “Most cases are probably unreported, reported to the wrong agencies, or kept confidential by pharmaceutical companies,” said the researchers.
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.
“Much of this morbidity and mortality could be avoided if drugs available to patients were efficacious, high quality, and used correctly.”
In parts of the world where malaria is prevalent, antimalarial drugs are widely distributed and self-prescribed, both correctly and incorrectly, he researchers added.
The study found there are insufficient facilities to monitor the quality of antimalarial drugs and poor consumer and health-worker knowledge about the therapies.
There were also issues of lack of regulatory oversight of manufacturing and little punitive action for counterfeiters.
Despite this, malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25 per cent globally since 2000, and by 33per cent in the WHO African Region. But the World Health Organisation said maintaining current rates of progress would not be enough to meet global targets for malaria control.