The National, Thursday July 4th, 2013
SUBSTANDARD tuberculosis drugs sold by pharmacies in poor countries are a growing public health threat, but the problem can be alleviated if governments enforced World Health Organisation standards, a new study reports.
At pharmacies in 17 countries, the authors bought 713 samples of two TB drugs, the antibiotics rifampin and isoniazid.
A total of 9% had no active ingredient or, worse, too little: An inadequate dose encourages the growth of drug-resistant TB strains while not curing the patient.
The study, published online by PLoS Medicine, showed the failures in what should be a nearly perfect system for basic TB control, Dr Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, said.
That partnership, which is affiliated with the WHO, supplies high-quality drugs at about US$30 (K65) per box with a six-month supply.
Poor countries get them free, middle-income countries pay on a sliding scale, and even the United States is negotiating to buy them to cover spot shortages, Ditiu said.
An author of the study, Amir Attaran said all countries would buy the partnership’s drugs and governments would ban sales of those drugs for other purposes.