African Union Mission and Global Health Progress Address Counterfeit Medications

The African Union Mission (AU) and Global Health Progress (GHP) delegations joined in a roundtable discussion this morning to discuss the problem of counterfeit drugs.  The discussion included health ministry delegates from eight African countries including Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya.

Though Lilly knows the extent of the problem, I was shocked to hear some delegates say that in their countries 70% of medicines sold are counterfeit and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2,000 children die every day in Africa from Counterfeit drugs, while 700,000 people die every year. Several of the African delegates said this problem is downright scary; I agree.

 One delegate pointed out that without protection of the supply-chain across borders; this is a national security issue for all countries-- including the United States.  This is absolutely true. If drug-resistant strains of disease spread globally, we will truly have a global security threat on our hands.  Counterfeiters often make 'trick' counterfeits, which fool the patient into believing that they are convalescing.  For example, some anti-malarial drug counterfeiters contain an ingredient which temporarily lowers fevers, but does nothing to treat the malaria.   Furthermore, resistance to too many bad, counterfeit Malaria drugs can mean that the good ones won't work.

A few discussion points raised by the delegations this morning: 

  • There is no question this is a global issue.  According to a new report, fake tuberculosis and malaria drugs alone are estimated to kill 700,000 people a year and 30-50% of all drugs sold in Africa are counterfeit.
  • Counterfeit drugs are dangerous. They don't provide effective treatment, they can cause direct harm to the patient and they can increase drug resistance.  
  • All Counterfeit drugs are substandard.  Any drug that is produced without regulations of any kind, without quality controls and without good manufacturing practices must be considered substandard and is a significant risk to patient safety.
  • Counterfeiters target both brand-name and generic drugs.  Let's face it, if there's a profit to be made, people will try to make it--no matter how it hurts public health.

As I have previously addressed, Lilly understands the interconnectedness of counterfeit drugs in Africa and the rest of the world.  That is why we always work to try and raise awareness about this issue.  There is no doubt that counterfeit drugs constitute a major problem around the world.  While there are dangerous and substandard drugs being marketing to intentionally trick consumers, Lilly will keep working to try and combat this issue and protect patient safety.  Keep an eye out on LillyPad for more information about counterfeit drugs.