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The Dangers of Counterfeit Medicine

Imagine your child is sick but the closest clinic is days away. That is the unfortunate situation for many people in developing countries. So when illness strikes they often turn to nearby traditional healers or unregulated “pharmacies” where medicines are dispensed.

Without the scrutiny of an organization like the FDA, or the infrastructure of regulated pharmacies, many countries have little control over medication sold on the street, over the internet, or even in so-called pharmacies. As a result, the “medicine” is often useless powder or worse, a compound that is watered down or inappropriate to the illness.

According to a recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), “Falsified medical products may contain no active ingredient, the wrong active ingredient or the wrong amount of the correct active ingredient. They are also found to commonly contain corn starch, potato starch or chalk.”

Even worse, they may be “…produced in very poor and unhygienic conditions by unqualified personnel, and contain unknown impurities and are sometimes contaminated with bacteria.”

As a result, too many people in resource-poor countries are using medicine that is useless or even toxic to treat illness.

According to an NPR report, “Two hundred people died in Pakistan after taking a contaminated heart medication in 2011… more than a thousand people were hospitalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo after taking a fake drug in 2014 and 2015. It turned out to contain an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia.”

“One of the most important aspects of MAP’s work is delivering high quality, effective medicines to people in need,” said Steve Stirling, MAP’s president and CEO. “The medicine we provide can be trusted to treat illness effectively. It’s something we may take for granted in this country, but that is not the case in many countries.”

MAP’s own high standards have made it a leader in helping provide guidelines for other groups working in the developing world. As a founding member of the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations (PQMD), MAP shares more than six decades of experience in providing high quality medicines to those in need.

“Doctors often tell us they are so grateful that they can trust the medicine provided by MAP to truly help those in need,” said Stirling. “Thanks to our donors, pharmaceutical partners and partners on the ground, medicines coming from MAP are trusted around the world.”

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