According to data from the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime it is estimated that up to half a million people are killed each year in Sub-Saharan Africa by counterfeit medications. Of the total deaths, 267,000 are thought to be tied to substandard or falsified antimalarial medications, with an additional 169,271 deaths linked to falsified or substandard antibiotics used to treat severe pneumonia in children.
According to Statista's 2023 report authored by Anna Fleck, 'Trafficking in Medical Products in the Sahel' it is noted that it is difficult to estimate the overall quantity of medical products that are being trafficked in the region but numerous studies have suggested that the percentage of medical products that are falsified or substandard is between the 19-50 percent range. From 2017 to 2021 more than 605 tons of medical products were confiscated in West Africa as part of international operations in the region.
The report lists the Sahel countries as Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Niger, which all rely on imported medical products due to their own pharmaceutical industries still being created or developed. The counterfeit medications are believed to be mostly coming from pharmaceutical exporters like Belgium, China, France, and India whose drugs have been diverted from the legal supply chain. Some of the counterfeit medications are also thought to have been manufactured in neighboring countries.
The main reason for the high death rate appears to be due to a lack of border control as well as the affected countries having limited access to affordable, safe, effective, and quality medications. There is also a lack of traceability of medical products and little legislation regulating the import of medications, according to Zerohedge.
Drugs are considered counterfeit if they have been sold without being cleared, licensed, or approved, or if they have expired or do not contain the required active ingredients.
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