Essay Examines Issue Of Counterfeit, Substandard TB Drugs

“Substandard tuberculosis drugs sold by pharmacies in poor countries are a growing public health threat, but the problem could be alleviated if governments enforced [WHO] standards,” according to an essay published online by PLOS Medicine, the New York Times reports. “At pharmacies in 17 countries, the authors bought 713 samples of two TB drugs, the antibiotics rifampin and isoniazid,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Nine percent had no active ingredient or, worse, too little: An inadequate dose encourages the growth of drug-resistant TB strains while not curing the patient” (McNeil, 7/1). “The failure rate was 16.6 percent in Africa and 10.1 percent in India,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which notes, “Rwanda’s health minister, Agnes Binagwaho, called [in the essay] for a global treaty to combat fake and poor-quality drugs.” The newspaper adds, “All countries should criminalize the production and sale of fake drugs, and impose tighter standards and regulation to prevent poor-quality drugs from making it onto the market, said Amir Attaran, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa and another author of the essay” (McKay/Shah, 7/4). The essay “shows the failures in what should be a nearly perfect system for basic TB control, said Dr. Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership,” the New York Times writes (7/1).

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