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We need new strategies to tackle poor quality medicines

The proliferation of poor quality medical products (medicines, vaccines and devices) is an important but neglected public health problem, which threatens millions of people across the world, both in developing and wealthy countries. A recent report from the World Health Organization estimated that 1 in 10 medicines in low and middle-income countries were falsified or substandard. Falsified diazepam found across Scotland has been reported as being “cheaper than chips”.

Taking falsified and substandard medicines, which may have the incorrect or wrong dose of pharmaceutical ingredients, or no active ingredients at all, may result in death, prolonged illness, side effects and/or loss of trust in healthcare systems. Falsified antimicrobials are also likely to contribute to antimicrobial resistance.

Our ability to tackle the issue of falsified medicines is hampered by its complexity. Criminals are becoming more sophisticated, using the internet as well as offline pharmacies for distribution, creating falsified medicines and working across geographical boundaries and in countries with varying legislation and levels of enforcement. Errors in factories without sufficient quality control result in substandard medicines, that often contain insufficient ingredients. But because the poor quality medicines look genuine they are hard to detect.

The issue affects a broad range of stakeholders from individual patients, pharmacists and medicine regulatory authorities, to the pharmaceutical industry and law enforcement agencies. We need to better understand the scale of the problem, raise awareness and encourage interventions and support so that every country has a functional medicine regulatory agency to ensure that we all have access to medicines we can trust.

This year, we are holding a pioneering conference to bring leading professionals from all over the world to Oxford to discuss strategies for tackling poor quality medical products on a global scale.

The conference will be an important opportunity for the diverse stakeholders involved in medicine quality and regulation to come together within the framework of a dedicated academic conference to share ideas and expertise. One of the event’s key objectives is to develop a consensus statement to be widely disseminated to interested parties and policy makers, forming the basis of a coordinated global effort to tackle poor-quality medical products.

The Medicine Quality and Public Health Conference (#MQPH2018) will provide a unique opportunity for medicines regulatory authorities, health workers, scientists, pharmacists, sociologists, economists and international organisations to discuss the problem and outline the necessary steps to address this important issue.

The conference is expected to attract leading authorities from all over the world, including representatives from a diversity of organisations in low- and middle-income countries, where the issue of poor-quality medicines is often more pronounced owing to inadequate surveillance systems.

The conference will take place at Keble College at the University of Oxford, from 23–28 September 2018. More information about the speakers can be found on the conference website.

A limited number of early bird places are available on a first come, first served basis.


Paul Newton, head of the Medicine Quality Group, Infectious Diseases Data Observatory, University of Oxford

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205017

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