Author Curtis Abraham cites the latest results from the WorldWide Antimalarial Resist Network as motivation to improve malaria drug quality. Their most recent survey found that 30% of malaria drugs tested globally failed quality assurance tests.

In an opinion piece for New Scientist, Curtis Abraham asks medical and disease professionals to work harder to stem the tide of fake antimalarials in malaria-endemic regions, citing the work of the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WARN). Writes Abraham, WARN discovered that “30 per cent of malaria drugs tested globally failed either chemical or packaging quality tests. Of these, 39 per cent were fake. Many of the falsified pills were from southern China. Given the global burden of malaria, if even a small percentage of drugs are fake, it will translate into significant, and avoidable, increases in sickness and death.”

Abraham also points out the dangers of substandard antimalarials, noting that they are the most likely means of developing drug-resistant strains of malaria. As he explains, it is already happening. “If the antimalarial contains low amounts of active ingredient, susceptible parasites in the blood are killed but resistant ones multiply – and then are sucked up by mosquitoes to spread. The Greater Mekong area is now the epicentre for resistance to the most potent drug, artemisinin, and there are concerns this could spread to Africa, costing millions of lives.”

Abraham notes that according to WHO, approximately 30% of countries have no effective prescription drug regulation. Many of those same countries have endemic malaria. Abrahams considers this a global problem that requires “international political will” to be solved.

By S. Imber