It is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that 10 to 30 per cent of medicines in the developing world are counterfeit and this causes numerous problems. Counterfeits can harm or inadequately treat patients and have also been linked to development of drug resistance.
To educate the population of Southeast Asia about these dangers the US Pharmacopeia (USP) and US Agency for International Development (USAID) are showing public service announcements (PSA).
The PSA shows the illegal supply chain, from the manufacturer to the dealer to the patient, who dies, after which the message "counterfeiting is a crime against humanity, against you", is displayed.
By increasing awareness of the problem the USP and USAID hope they can limit counterfeit use by cutting demand, a different and potentially easier task than directly targeting manufacturers.
Flynn Fuller, USAID Cambodia Mission director, believes the presence of counterfeits in Southeast Asia “remains a largely unknown problem”, despite the “grave threat” they pose to patients.
Patrick Lukulay, director of USP's Drug Quality and Information (DQI) Program, added that the development of drug resistance is a particular problem because it impacts “not only the individual patient but the greater population of citizens”.
The PSA campaign is an aspect of the DQI Program, which was implemented by the USP to improve the quality of medicines on four continents. As part of the project the USP has implemented active surveillance programmes that take medicines off the market for testing.
Furthermore, the USP has established “sentinel sites” in countries to perform the tests and trained local chemists working in government laboratories, medical students and other qualified parties to cost-effectively detect counterfeits.