Nearly half of the world’s population is exposed to malaria, especially in Africa, and to a lesser degree Latin America and Southeast Asia.
It is estimated that in 2013 malaria caused 584,000 deaths throughout the world, the majority of which were in Africa, notably children under 5 years of age.
There is currently no approved vaccine against malaria; however the disease can be prevented and cured with adequate treatment. The best treatment against the most dangerous of malaria parasite species, Plasmodium falciparum, is an artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Reinforced measures of prevention and eradication have spectacularly reduced the “malaria burden” (number of people infected by malaria) in certain zones. The WHO estimates the rate of deaths due to malaria has dropped since 2000 by 47% worldwide and by 54% in Africa.
This progress is closely lniked to greater access to effective treatment for patients as well as to growing awareness by populations at risk of the disease itself and the available preventive measures (insect repellents, insecticides, mosquito nets treated with insecticide; intermittent preventive therapy (IPT) for pregnant women and children in zones with highly seasonal malaria).
However such efforts are greatly threatened by the growing presence of falsified antimalarials in those countries most affected by the disease:
In Africa, a third of all antimalarial medication is falsified!
This percentage is even higher in certain countries such as Ghana and Cameroon (40%), or even Nigeria (64%).
It is estimated that these falsified antiamlarials are responsible for 450,000 deaths.
These sub-standard products can directly cause death, provoke undesirable side effects, weaken the trust of at-risk populations and health officials in real anti-malarial medication and Public Health services, and increase the risk of the emergence and propagation of drug-resistant strains of the Plasmodium malaria parasite.
The rise and geographic spread of antiamalarial drug resistance is a major threat to public health and must be fought at all costs. A number of means have been deployed against this threat such as improved use of available medication according to geographic region, strain of Plasmodium, and the degree and certainty of the diagnostic.
Falsified antimalarials must be aggressively battled, both to avoid direct consequences (death of thousands of people, poor control of the spread of the disease) and to limit the development of drug resistance, which will eventually threaten world health.