Right now, infectious diseases are spreading around the world at an alarming rate. Tuberculosis, malaria and HIV are leading the deadly pack. Health professionals and researchers seem to have lost control of the diseases, and the problem is due to two reasons brought on by humans: negligence and misuse of drugs. Antibiotics were doing a fine job of combating these diseases until people began selling counterfeit drugs.
Fake drugs present a worldwide public health problem that is difficult to measure. While counterfeiting occurs across the globe, experts think it is most common in developing countries and countries with few or no rules against making or distributing counterfeit drugs. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10% to 30% of medicines sold in developing countries may be counterfeit, and some studies conclude that the percentage may be even higher. In the US and other industrialized countries, it is not as big a concern, fewer than 1% of medicines sold are believed to be counterfeit.
When people consume such drugs their bodies can become resistant to them. If these people are stricken with disease and need antibiotics, their bodies may not respond to them. The second major concern causing drug resistance is the unintended consequences of giving drugs to the poor without properly monitoring their treatment.
According to The Miami Herald, here’s what the Associated Press found:
o In Cambodia, scientists have confirmed the emergence of a new drug-resistant form of malaria, threatening the only treatment left to fight a disease that already kills one million people a year.
o In Africa, new and harder to treat strains of HIV are being detected in about 5 percent of new patients. HIV drug resistance rates have shot up to as high as 30 percent worldwide.
o In the U.S., drug-resistant infections killed more than 65,000 people last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. More than 19,000 people died from a staph infection alone that has been eliminated in Norway, where antibiotics are stringently limited.
Last year April, the WHO sounded alarms by holding its first drug-resistant TB conference in Beijing. The message was clear — the disease has already spread to all continents and is increasing rapidly. Even worse, WHO estimates only 1 percent of resistant patients received appropriate treatment last year.
Health officials will need to take a closer look at counterfeit drugs. In the meantime, the only way to really know if a drug is counterfeit is through chemical analysis done in a laboratory. However, according to the Center for Disease Control, there are some signs that you can look for that may indicate a counterfeit drug. For example, counterfeit tablets may-
Have a strange smell, taste, or color
- Break apart very easily
- Be in poor-quality packaging or packages with misspelled labels
- Cost very little, especially compared with the normal price of that particular drug