Wednesday, April 24, 2013
FDA device will screen for fake medicines overseas By MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Health Writer Updated 11:24 am, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials are making a high-tech screening device available in Africa to help spot counterfeit malaria pills in hopes that the technology may eventually be used to combat the fake drug trade worldwide.
The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that U.S. partners in Ghana will begin using a federally developed handheld device to screen for fake or diluted versions of two common malaria pills.
More than a third of malaria-fighting pills used in Africa and Asia are either fake or bad quality, according to a study released last year. Rampant drug counterfeiting has undermined efforts to fight the mosquito-borne disease, which causes fever, chills and flu-like illness. Malaria kills more than 660,000 people each year, more than 90 percent of them in Africa.
If the FDA's counterfeit detection device, or CD-3, proves effective in Ghana, the agency hopes to mass produce it on an international scale, which could ultimately reduce counterfeiting around the world.
Counterfeit medicines have long been a problem in developing regions like Africa and Asia, but more fake drugs have been making their way to U.S. pharmacies and hospitals as drug supply chains increasingly stretch across continents. Over 80 percent of the active ingredients used in U.S. pharmaceuticals are now manufactured overseas, according to one congressional estimate.
"We live in a world where the marketplace is increasingly global, where the supply chain of drugs is increasingly vulnerable and we are seeing many more problems with substandard and counterfeit drugs around the world," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, in an interview with The Associated Press. "Unfortunately developing economies are the most burdened by this problem, but we've had serious threats to health in this country as well."