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

What's new on AEI

Study: Piketty tax plan would boost equality by making rich less rich. But poor would be poorer, too
image Rep. McCaul’s cybersecurity information sharing center: If you build it, will they come?
image Halbig and its aftermath
image Culture of how Washington pays for medical care
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 28
    MON
  • 29
    TUE
  • 30
    WED
  • 31
    THU
  • 01
    FRI
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Is Medicare's future secure? The 2014 Trustees Report

Please join AEI as the chief actuary for Medicare summarizes the report’s results, followed by a panel discussion of what those spending trends are likely to mean for seniors, taxpayers, the health industry, and federal policy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, August 01, 2014 | 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Watergate revisited: The reforms and the reality, 40 years later

Please join us as four of Washington’s most distinguished political observers will revisit the Watergate hearings and discuss reforms that followed.

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.
No events scheduled this day.