Sub-standard and fake medicines

Issue

Successful treatment of malaria requires that an effective and high-quality antimalarial drug is administered correctly. The challenge is to deliver this in a setting where systems for drug manufacturing and storage, quality testing and pharmaceutical licensing are generally weak. 

Action

MMV advocates against all substandard drugs and encourages governments only to endorse and procure WHO-recommended treatments. 


Most malaria deaths occur in Africa. Even if a sick child is lucky enough to live near a public clinic, their caregiver may seek treatment elsewhere, possibly at the local market, street vendor or general-purpose shop. These are all unlicensed places where a range of unregulated products are sold as ‘antimalarials’.

These outlets are often flooded with sub-standard medicines to treat malaria. This mix of pills, powders and syrups is generally untested, of unproven efficacy and stability, and – in the worst-case scenario – unsafe or counterfeit.  

The outcome is that many treatments taken for malaria are ineffective, (because they contain too little of the active ingredient), or harmful (because they contain dangerous alternatives to the active ingredient). Those that contain some antimalarial may leave the patient only partly cured, therefore promoting the spread of drug resistance.

Reversing this state of affairs requires a multi-pronged approach. At the highest levels, the challenge is to persuade policy makers that the issue deserves serious attention. It will be necessary to establish a monitored supply chain so that drugs are of assured quality from manufacture to consumption. Clamping down on forgers and importers, and working with manufacturers to make counterfeiting harder are also part of the solution.

MMV is a signatory to the Fight the Fakes campaign, aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of fake medicines. The campaign gives a voice to those who have been personally impacted and shares the stories of those working to put a stop to this threat to public health. It seeks to build a global movement of organizations and individuals who will shine light on the negative impact that fake medicines have on people around the globe and to reduce the negative consequences on individuals worldwide.