[B-SIDE Podcast] Understanding the risks posed by fake and low-quality drugs

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Fake and low-quality medicines have become more common and are being sold at lower prices through online platforms.

In this B-Side episode, Monash University professor Michelle McIntosh discusses the effects of subpar medication on the overall health of people with BusinessWorld reporter Adrian H. Halili. 

“Understanding the quality of medicines is important, and in many cases around the world, the pharmaceutical products can be counterfeit or substandard products that are available,” Ms. McIntosh said. 

She said that medications like these may not be very effective and could be harmful to one’s health. “There can be consequences when people use substandard materials.” 

“There is definitely a high prevalence of substandard medication in third-world or low-resource settings,” she added. “It’s not only in those environments; it is something that people around the world are aware of.” 

Ms. McIntosh said that there is also a risk in purchasing medications through online platforms. “If you purchase medicine through the internet, you don’t actually know what quality it is when it arrives at your house,” she added. 

Counterfeit and substandard medication, such as anti-malaria and maternal healthcare drugs, are also observed being sold in third-world countries, according to Ms. McIntosh.

She said that due to high populations and less regulatory monitoring, the likelihood of these products being sold in the market is higher.

“Whether the regulatory agency can conduct routine testing to check the quality of products that come in… may be more challenging. People see an opportunity to make money by providing a counterfeit or substandard product,” she added.

Ms. McIntosh said that there is a need to identify poor-quality medicines in collaboration with experts and government organizations.

“At Monash University, we’ve recently established a quality of medicines initiative where we are working to apply our expertise in understanding pharmaceutical products, how they work, and how sometimes they may not work as they are supposed to,” she said. 

The quality cannot be determined easily by looking at it alone. She also said that using them might result in health problems or side effects. 

“That can create problems for the individual who is taking them, and also it can lead to anti-microbial resistance, in the case of antibiotics.”

Ms. McIntosh said that the university’s program aims to work with governments in developing and strengthening their pharmaceutical sectors.

Neil Banzuelo

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