The health consequences of falsified medicines‐ A study of the published literature

Tropical Medicine & International Health
Volume 23, Issue 12  Pages: i-iv, 1281-1407  December 2018

The health consequences of falsified medicines‐ A study of the published literature
Mohammad Sofiqur Rahman, Naoko Yoshida, Hirohito Tsuboi, Naoki Tomizu, Jamie Endo, Onishi Miyu, Yoshio Akimoto, Kazuko Kimura
Pages: 1294-1303
First Published: 06 October 2018
To analyse and present the literature describing the health consequences of falsified medicines, focusing on mortality and morbidity, as well as the scale of the issue, the geographic extent, the medicines affected, and the harm caused at both the individual and population levels.
We searched for articles in PubMed, using pre‐optimized keywords ‘(counterfeit OR fake OR bogus OR falsified OR spurious) AND (medicine OR drug)’. Searches up to February 2017 yielded 2006 hits, of which 1791 were full‐length articles in English. Among them, we found 81 papers that qualitatively or quantitatively described 48 incidents in which falsified medicines caused patients to suffer serious adverse effects, injury, symptoms or death.
The distribution of incidents was examined according to the economic status of the countries involved, regional location in the world, therapeutic category of the medicines, number of incidents and victims by year, and characteristics of the falsified medicines. Among the 48 reported incidents, 27 (56.3%) occurred in developing countries and 21 (43.7%) in developed countries. These incidents involved a total of approximately 7200 casualties including 3604 deaths.
Despite the poor quality of much of the reported data, the results of this study indicate that all types of medications have been targeted for falsification, and falsified medicines have had a serious impact on the health of both adults and children worldwide, with similar numbers of incidents in developing and developed countries.