A recent assessment by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that weak and or/useless drugs have proliferated across Africa and Asia, with malaria-ridden West Africa being the hardest hit (102-page PDF). Smugglers, organized criminals and shady manufacturers in more developed countries are getting rich at the expense of individuals and countries with little capacity to distinguish between fraudulent pharmaceuticals and the real thing.
From the accompanying press release:
As much as 50-60 per cent of anti-infective medicines tested in Asia and Africa have been found to have insufficient amounts of the active ingredients. Medicines with low levels of active ingredients pose a greater hazard than those with none, because substandard antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs can promote the development of drug resistant strains, or “super bugs” that can spread beyond the region.
The UN report calls for immediate action, including the naming, shaming and banning of companies producing the faux pills and stronger government regulatory efforts.