The primacy of public health considerations in defining poor quality medicines

USAID

Lawrence Nwosu, Country Sales Director Sproxil Nigeria, talking with a pharmacist who sees the benefits from the scratch off labels used to identify counterfeit drugs.

Article Highlights

  • Attempts to improve medicine quality are hampered by confusion and controversy over definitions

    Tweet This

  • Public health should be prime consideration in combating counterfeit medicine

    Tweet This

  • International treaty on #med quality could be important step in fighting counterfeit drugs

    Tweet This

Read the full text as a PDF: The primacy of public health considerations in defining poor quality medicines

Download PDF
Summary Points

  • Poor quality essential medicines, both substandard and counterfeit, are serious but neglected public health problems. Anti-infective medicines are particularly afflicted.
  • Unfortunately, attempts to improve medicine quality have been hampered by confusion and controversy over definitions. For counterfeit (or falsified) medicines, this has arisen from perceived differences between public health and intellectual property approaches to the problem.
  • We argue that public health, and not intellectual property or trade issues, should be the prime consideration in defining and combating counterfeit medicines, and that the World Health Organization (WHO) should be encouraged and supported to take a more prominent role in improving the world's medicine quality and supply.
  • An international treaty on medicine quality, under WHO auspices, could be an important step forward in the struggle against both substandard and counterfeit (or falsified) medicines.


Poor Quality Medicines-A Major Public Health Problem

There is growing, but belated, concern that much of the developing world's supply of medicines-in particular, its supply of anti-infective drugs-is of poor quality. This constitutes a major public health problem because the high prevalence of poor quality drugs in developing countries results in avoidable morbidity, mortality, and drug resistance [1]-[7]. Moreover, any efforts to improve public health by developing new medicines or by changing treatment policies will ultimately be pointless if the drugs patients actually take contain insufficient or incorrect ingredients.

Unfortunately, efforts to improve the quality of medicines in developing countries are being hampered by confusion over the terms used to describe different types of poor quality medicines. This confusion has arisen because of poor science and because of tension between the defence of commercial interests and the public health importance of enhanced access to good quality medicines in developing countries. Specifically, some commentators have argued that counterfeit medicines are being viewed primarily as intellectual property (IP) rather than public health concerns and that the innovative pharmaceutical industry is using action against counterfeit medicines to impede the trade in competing generics [8]-[20]. In this essay, we call for public health concerns to be made the prime consideration in defining and combating counterfeit medicines and argue that recent World Health Organization (WHO) initiatives eschew IP concerns. We also discuss some related but neglected interventions that might help to improve drug quality in developing countries.

Roger Bate is the Legatum Fellow in Global Prosperity At AEI

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Roger
Bate
  • Roger Bate is an economist who researches international health policy, with a particular focus on tropical disease and substandard and counterfeit medicines. He also writes on general development policy in Asia and Africa. He writes regularly for AEI's Health Policy Outlook.
  • Phone: 202-828-6029
    Email: rbate@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Katherine Earle
    Phone: (202) 862-5872
    Email: katherine.earle@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Getting it right: US national security policy and al Qaeda since 2011
image Net neutrality rundown: What the NPRM means for you
image The Schuette decision
image Snatching failure from victory in Afghanistan
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.