troublesome-pillsFor many of the world’s poor, most pharmaceuticals required to treat common illnesses are unaffordable. However, when someone scrapes together enough money to buy essential drugs, an even more insidious problem can arise: many of the pharmaceuticals sold in poor countries are not genuine, and can even have a harmful effect. The extent of the problem is illustrated by the results of a recent survey.

The survey, published yesterday in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, related to the drugs isoniazid and rifampicin, which are used in the treatment of tuberculosis. People living in each of 19 different cities were instructed to purchase these pharmaceuticals from private pharmacies, and  the purchased drugs were analysed. Some of the pills which failed the tests came from legitimate manufacturers but were poorly made or had corroded in transit. Others were counterfeits, made to look like the real thing, but without beneficial effect.

The African cities included in the survey were Luanda, Lubumbashi, Cairo, Addis Ababa, Accra, Nairobi, Lagos, Kigali, Dar-es-Salaam, Kampala and Lusaka. Some 16.6 percent of the drugs purchased in these African cities failed the tests, compared with an average 3.9 percent failure rate in Sao Paulo, Beijing, Bangkok, Moscow and Istanbul.

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