WHO Launches Counterfeit Drug Reporting System in Western Pacific Region
The World Health Organization's Regional Office for the Western Pacific on Friday launched a Web-based Rapid Alert System to help governments in the region track the spread of counterfeit drugs, including fake antimalarials, Reuters AlertNet reports. According to WHO Western Pacific Director Shigeru Omi, counterfeit drugs make up an estimated 6% to 10% of all medicines in the world market. "We are dealing with a very dangerous situation," Omi said, adding, "And it is getting worse. The counterfeit drugs trade is an organized, transnational crime" (Reuters AlertNet, 5/6). A 2001 study conducted in the Mekong region found that more than 33% of all antimalarial artesunate products in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam contained no active ingredients. A follow-up study conducted in 2004 indicated that the situation had "worsened," with 99 out of 188 artesunate samples found to be counterfeit, according to a WHO/WPRO release (WHO/WPRO release, 5/3). Eva Maria Christophel, WHO medical officer for malaria and other diseases, said that counterfeit antimalarials have contributed to increases in the number of drug-resistant malaria cases. "That means the common antimalarials ... which are cheap, do not work anymore," she said, adding, "As a consequence, much more expensive drugs have to be used." Omi added that counterfeit antiretroviral drugs also are beginning to appear (Burgos, Kyodo News, 5/6). "We hope that the Rapid Alert System will considerably strengthen our hand against the counterfeiters," Dr. Budiono Santoso, WHO's regional adviser in pharmaceuticals for the Western Pacific region, said, adding, "Rapid communication and efficient exchange of information are crucial to combating counterfeiting" (WHO/WPRO release, 5/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.