Beware of fake malaria drugs in Asia

A really interesting article over at Medical News Today looks at the prevalence of fake anti-malarial medications being sold, especially in China. The article is the result of a communal project involving physicians, public health workers, and Interpol participating in “Operation Jupiter” to uncover the unfortunately common practice of fake medication being sold to travelers. The original article, published in the Public Library of Science can be read here.

The anti-malarial drugs often contained no medications of benefit to malaria prevention. Worse than that were the medications that actually contained harmful substances such as banned medicines and ingredients from the street drug Ecstasy. But wait, it gets even worse! Some of the medicines sold had trace amounts of the known anti-malarial drug called Artesunate. There was just enough to pass the drug screening test, but not enough to provide any decent protection. This means that a resistance to Artesunate can build, rendering a very potent anti-malarial drug worthless.

One suspect, from the Yunnan province, is charged with selling 240,000 packs of fake Artesunate. This is an amount large enough to give false hope of protection from malaria to almost a quarter of a million people. However, only ten percent of this was able to be seized and removed from the market.

This article underscores the importance of knowing where your medication comes from. There are many reputable pharmacies worldwide, but there are also some shadier, backdoor places that have these unlicensed and harmful products. The best advice would be to get your medications from your home country or from a known and confirmed reputable place.

Make sure you get the medications you are paying for and are actually being protected from malaria.