Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fake Malaria Drugs Made In China: Tracking Down The Threat To Global Health

Date:
February 13, 2008
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
A unique collaboration between scientists, public health workers and police has led to the arrest by the Chinese authorities of alleged traders of fake antimalarial drugs in southern China and the seizure of a large quantity of drugs. The work, involving teams from across the globe, has highlighted both the growing threat posed by fake pharmaceuticals and the complexities of tracking down those responsible for the trade.

Counterfeit artesunate anti-malarial tablet with fake 'X-52' stamp as seen under UV light.
Credit: Newton PN, Fernandez FM, Plancon A, Mildenhall DC, Green MD,et al.

A unique collaboration between scientists, public health workers and police has led to the arrest by the Chinese authorities of alleged traders of fake anti-malarial drugs in southern China and the seizure of a large quantity of drugs. The work, involving teams from across the globe, has highlighted both the growing threat posed by fake pharmaceuticals and the complexities of tracking down those responsible for the trade.

Related Articles


Dubbed Operation Jupiter, the investigation was coordinated by the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL), the World Health Organization's Western Pacific Regional Office, and the Wellcome Trust-University of Oxford SE Asian Tropical Medicine Research Programme, in close cooperation with Chinese authorities. Scientists from 5 other laboratories analysed the composition of the fake drugs and their packaging.

Fake anti-malarial drugs are an increasingly serious problem, particularly in South-East Asia and Africa. In countries with a large burden of malaria, such as Myanmar (Burma), the Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam, as many as half of all artesunate tablets -- one of the most effective anti-malarial drugs -- is counterfeit.

Most of the fakes examined as part of Operation Jupiter contained no artesunate, and some contained a wide range of potentially toxic wrong active ingredients. Also of grave concern was the fact that counterfeiters sometimes included dangerously small amounts of artesunate in the tablets. This may be done to foil screening tests of drug quality, but these doses are too low to be efficacious, yet high enough to contribute to malaria parasites becoming resistant to this class of drugs.

"Artesunate, as part of artemisinin-based combination therapy, is vital for malaria treatment and is one of the most effective weapons we have against this terrible scourge," says Dr Paul Newton of the Wellcome Trust-University of Oxford SE Asian Tropical Medicine Research Programme. "Those who make fake anti-malarials have killed with impunity, directly through the criminal production of a medicine lacking active ingredients and by encouraging drug resistance to spread. If malaria becomes resistant to artesunate, the effect on public health in the tropics will be catastrophic."

In addition to analysing the chemistry of the samples, researchers used a technique known as forensic palynology to study pollen contamination within the fake tablets with the aim of tracking down the likely location of manufacture. The pollen evidence suggested that at least some of the counterfeit artesunate came from southern China, and this was supported by examination of the mineral calcite, found in some of the samples.

Armed with these findings by INTERPOL, Chinese authorities arrested a suspect in China's Yunnan Province in 2006. He is alleged to have traded 240,000 blisterpacks of counterfeit artesunate, enough to "treat" almost a quarter of a million adults with a medicine with no activity against a potentially fatal disease. Whilst the Chinese authorities were able to seize 24,000 of these packs, the remainder are alleged to have been sold at crossings on the border of Yunnan and Myanmar (Burma), accounting for almost a half of all blisterpacks of artesunate sold to the region.

The work of the Jupiter group highlights the need for more to be done internationally to support countries with a high prevalence of counterfeit anti-malarials in their attempts to combat this severe but under-recognised public health problem.

"Criminal investigations and legal action are important in disrupting and inhibiting the trade in fake medicines, but to be effective these will require financial support and resources," says Dr Newton. "Forensic tools may make it easier to identify the fake drugs and allow over-stretched police forces to focus on objective leads, greatly increasing the risks to counterfeiters of being caught. However, there are very few laboratories with the resources to perform detailed forensic chemistry or pollen analysis of fakes, particularly in the countries where they are most needed."

Journal citation: Newton PN, Fernandez FM, Plancon A, Mildenhall DC, Green MD,et al. (2008) A collaborative epidemiological investigation into the criminal fake artesunate trade in South East Asia. PLoS Med 5(2): e32.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "Fake Malaria Drugs Made In China: Tracking Down The Threat To Global Health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080212085828.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2008, February 13). Fake Malaria Drugs Made In China: Tracking Down The Threat To Global Health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080212085828.htm
Wellcome Trust. "Fake Malaria Drugs Made In China: Tracking Down The Threat To Global Health." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080212085828.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, waking up for work is the biggest factor that causes Americans to lose sleep. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) A wave of flu illnesses has forced some Ohio schools to shut down over the past week. State officials confirmed one pediatric flu-related death, a 15-year-old girl in southern Ohio. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins