Merck, USP Team Up to Combat Counterfeit Drugs in Africa

November 1, 2013
A group funded by Merck is joining the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) to battle counterfeit drugs in Africa, the latest sign that drugmakers and supply chain stakeholders are taking the problem of fake and substandard drugs in the developing world seriously.

The Global Pharma Health Fund (GPHF) will partner with USP’s Center for Pharmaceutical Advancement and Training in Ghana to provide training. GPHF will also donate a mini-laboratory that can be used for rapid drug quality verification and counterfeit detection.

Roger Bate, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute, said Oct. 29 that at least five percent of products in the emerging world are unfit for patient use, whether they are falsified, substandard or degraded.

Early in October, Interpol seized almost 100 tons of counterfeit pharmaceuticals as part of a massive operation with coordinated raids and inspections occurring in Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. The seized drugs, both branded and generic, are estimated to be worth approximately $3.5 million, Interpol said.

A February study conducted by USP, the Ghana Food and Drug Authority and USAID illustrates the problem. Researchers reviewed 303 samples of the childbirth drugs oxytocin and ergonovine distributed in Ghana and found that more than 90 percent failed active ingredient or sterility tests.

The FDA is also working to address counterfeit drugs in Africa. The agency plans to test its Counterfeit Detection Device, called CD-3, there to analyze products and their packaging and make sure they match authentic products.

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