Illegal drug developers are exploiting one of the world’s most prevalent diseases by distributing fake anti-malaria drugs in the Asia-Pacific region. Malaria, a disease caused by parasites, transferred usually by the Anopheles mosquito causes high fever and eventually death, has no vaccine. Therefore, the treatments provided by drugs are pertinent to making sure the disease does not escalate.
When administered to a child one possible side effect of the fake drugs is death. Long term effects include distrust in the use of drugs and development of resistance to the active ingredient, artemisinin, which fights malaria, but in its minor dosage in the fake drug can be potentially harmful. Fake drug developers are staying one step ahead of enforcement agencies as they manufacture the drugs with this small amount of artemisinin in order to pass tests as though the drug were real (safe and effective). The poorly developed drugs may also have traces of carcinogens as well. Ric Price, Professor of Global Health at Darwin’s Menzies School of Health Research states that “about 20%-60% of the drugs sold across the counter in Asia in many parts are usually fake.” Developing countries are falling into this trap because their limited budget to purchase medicines means that cheaper drugs are entering the country without a quality check and while countries like China have made some success at shutting down the illegal factories, other black markets are spreading in New Delhi and even Nigeria.
The problem is even more concerning as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has found that it previously underestimated the number of malaria cases there are worldwide. Today, the number of people affected is approximately 1.2 million. Risk of developing resistance of artemisinin means that the progress made towards fully eradicating the disease can be jeopardized. An IHME study found that 76% of deaths related to malaria are from Asia alone.