Patient Safety Threatened by Counterfeit Medications
Patient safety is the concern of every doctor, nurse, and pharmacist working in medicine today, reminded Founder of Partnership of Safe Medicines India, Bejon Misra. Counterfeit drugs impact patient safety, particularly in places where the drug supply chain is compromised.
In 2011, when asked what safe medicines meant to him, he responded simply, "Saving millions of lives."
Until recently, most people have equated counterfeit drugs found in the US with lifestyle drugs such as ED or weight-loss treatments. Since the discovery last April of counterfeit cancer medication in US doctors' clinics, concern is rising that the US counterfeit drug market is growing rapidly.
President and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute Tom Kubic also has concerns about the recent infiltrations of the closed, secure supply chain in the US by counterfeit medicines.
Writes Kubic in a Sproxil blog post, "A key benefit of globalization is that lifesaving medications can be readily transferred from anywhere in the world to countries like Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Unfortunately, globalization has also brought criminal organizations that take advantage of the need for these medications. Criminals cheat patients out of lifesaving medications. They counterfeit everything from anti-fungals and antibiotics to chemotherapy and antivirals. A medication with no healing power is worthless. Whether the victim is a child with malaria in Lagos, or a child with cancer in Los Angeles, neither will be cured, and both may be killed by the counterfeiter’s malice."
In the last 2 years for example, fake diabetes test strips and counterfeit cough syrup have been found in India, counterfeit drug smugglers have been busted in Israel, fake cancer drugs have been found in China, a counterfeit drug distributor was arrested in New Zealand, British citizens have been arrested for running a huge fake online pharmacy operation, and a UK paramedic died as a result of taking drugs she bought from a fake pharmacy on the Internet.
Possibly the most dangerous outcome of the counterfeit drug trade however, has been the appearance in the last year of artemesinin-resistant malaria in parts of Southeast Asia and Central Africa. Substandard & counterfeit antimalarials have helped create this resistance by exposing the malaria parasites to non-lethal levels of the drug that is the most cutting edge cure for malaria.
As Gary Lewis, Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific, UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in a recent interview with Australian Public Radio, “But perhaps in public health terms the greatest risk is something that many people don't realize, and that is the extent to which by having a lower active ingredient you get bacterial resistance, and the type of superbugs and drug resistant illnesses that erupt, and make it very, very difficult for public health to respond to that situation.”
Learn what policy experts, patient advocates, doctors and health officisl are doing to address patient safety worldwide at the 2012 Interchange, September 28th in Washington DC. We’ll be bringing together experts from medicine, law enforcement, public policy, and consumer safety for a one-day conference. Please join us!
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