Medical journal The Lancet has highlighted the growing threat posed by fake drugs following an eight-fold increase in the number of new counterfeit cases in the US.
Counterfeiting, where medicines have been deliberately or fraudulently mislabelled, may have caused the deaths of 81 patients in the US who died after being treated with contaminated heparin, a blood thinning drug.
Last week US Food and Drug Administration told a Congressional hearing it believed a contaminant found in batches of the heparin may have been deliberately added.
The contaminant, traced back to a Chinese supplier, was structurally similar to heparin, but 100 times cheaper.
In developing countries with weak regulatory systems, about 10% to 30% of medicines might be counterfeit, the journal said.
Antimalarial drugs are a particular target, and fake drugs have flooded the market across Asia.
Worldwide sales of counterfeit drugs are forecast to reach £38.22bn in 2010.
The Lancet concluded: “The World Health Organization and donor countries should provide support to developing nations to strengthen their regulatory systems. Individual governmental commitment to this goal is essential. Without it, public safety will continue to be compromised.”
Copyright © PA Business 2008