A new database of medicines will provide African, South American and Southeast Asian governments with technological data to use in identifying fake medicine.

The Promoting the Quality of Medicines (PQM) program developed by USAID and the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has launched a new public database of drugs collected and analyzed in collaboration with government agencies and NGOs in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. PQM has collected 8,700 records of tested samples from Ghana, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Peru, Guyana and Colombia.

Emphasizing the verification of quality medications and improving their availability, PQM focuses on drugs that treat life-threatening diseases such as malaria, HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis. PQM provides technical assistance to help strengthen quality assurance of medicines in developing countries primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as well as Russia.

The database catalogues medicine samples by year, location, facility, and type. The database also identifies if the medicine passed laboratory testing for authenticity and labels it authentic or counterfeit/substandard.

“Pharmaceutical markets operate globally, and sharing information on the quality of medicines among and within countries is crucial to patients, regulatory authorities, pharmacies, and manufacturers as well as agencies and organizations involved in international procurement and distribution of medicines. Having a publicly-available database that provides quick and easy access to information on medicines tested for their authenticity is a vital tool in helping to protect the public against the threat of substandard and counterfeit drugs,” said Dr. Patrick Lukulay, USP’s director of the PQM program.

Says the USP, “As more poor-quality medicines—both substandard and counterfeit—make their way into pharmacies and other outlets in developing countries, there is a higher risk to the health of people exposed to those medicines. Poor-quality medicines may bring little or no relief to patients, and may contribute to resistance to treatments for which there are no foreseeable alternatives in the near future. Additionally, patients may begin to lose confidence in the public health system, making them reluctant to seek proper medical help when most needed.”

“While multiple lines of intervention are critical for eliminating diseases like malaria, wide dissemination of information about poor quality medicines and their sources is vital in addressing the threats posed by the development of drug resistance to progress in disease control,” said Dr. Jaime Chang, M.D., project management specialist from the Health Office of USAID-Peru and coordinator of the Amazon Malaria Initiative (AMI), supported by USAID.

By S. Imber