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United Press International
Fake malaria drugs threaten millions

January 17, 2012
United Press International - January 17, 2012

OXFORD, England, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Criminals are circulating counterfeit and substandard drugs meant to control malaria, threatening millions of lives in Africa, scientists warn.

Dr. Paul Newton of the Wellcome Trust-Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration in Laos and a team of colleagues report fake anti-malarials are on sale in Africa, as are poor quality anti-malarials that are both useless and dangerous, The Guardian reported.

Malaria kills nearly 1 million people each year, mainly young children and pregnant women. It is caused by parasites injected into the bloodstream by mosquitoes.

Large parts of Africa are threatened by the distribution of fake and poor quality anti-malarials made illicitly in China, the researchers said.

Newton and colleagues looked at samples of suspect drugs from 11 countries collected from 2002 to 2010 and analysis showed some counterfeits contained a mixture of wrong active pharmaceutical ingredients, some of which may initially alleviate malaria symptoms but not cure malaria.

The unexpected ingredients could cause potentially serious side effects, particularly if they were to interact with other medication, such as anti-retroviral therapies for HIV, Newton said.