Counterfeit medicines are an insidious threat to global health, and the risks they pose have been largely underestimated to date. Apart from failing to cure disease, they can cause mental and physical damage–and even death. Fake drugs containing insufficient active ingredients breed resistance, which can make standard drugs useless. No area of the world is unaffected, but mounting evidence shows that the problem is disproportionately severe in developing and emerging-market countries, which also have the highest burden of infectious diseases. Countries have the primary responsibility–both in stopping criminal manufacturing and distribution and in protecting their citizens from counterfeit products–but multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) must do more to expose the problem and help countries tighten regulatory controls.

By Roger Bate, Kathryn Boateng
19 June 2007

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