Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Malar J. 2014 Jun 2;13:209. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-13-209.

The counterfeit anti-malarial is a crime against humanity: a systematic review of the scientific evidence.

Author information

  • 1Unit of Medical Entomology and Vector Control, Department of Environmental Health Sciences and Technology, College of Public Health & Medical Sciences, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia.



The counterfeiting of anti-malarials represents a form of attack on global public health in which fake and substandard anti-malarials serve as de facto weapons of mass destruction, particularly in resource-constrained endemic settings, where malaria causes nearly 660,000 preventable deaths and threatens millions of lives annually. It has been estimated that fake anti-malarials contribute to nearly 450,000 preventable deaths every year. This crime against humanity is often underestimated or ignored. This study attempts to describe and characterize the direct and indirect effects of counterfeit anti-malarials on public health, clinical care and socio-economic conditions.


A search was performed using key databases, WHO documents, and English language search engines. Of 262 potential articles that were identified using a fixed set of criteria, a convenience sample of 105 appropriate articles was selected for this review.


Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is an important tool in the fight against malaria, but a sizable number of patients are unable to afford to this first-line treatment. Consequently, patients tend to procure cheaper anti-malarials, which may be fake or substandard. Forensic palynology reveals that counterfeits originate in Asia. Fragile drug regulations, ineffective law-enforcement agencies and corruption further burden ailing healthcare facilities. Substandard/fake anti-malarials can cause (a) economic sabotage; (b) therapeutic failure; (c) increased risk of the emergence and spread of resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax; (d) an undermining of trust/confidence in healthcare stakeholders/systems; and, (e) serious side effects or death.


Combating counterfeit anti-malarials is a complex task due to limited resources and poor techniques for the detection and identification of fake anti-malarials. This situation calls for sustainable, global, scientific research and policy change. Further, responsible stakeholders in combination with the synthesis and supply of next generation malaria control tools, such as low-cost anti-malarials, must promote the development of a counterfeit-free and malaria-free future.

[PubMed - in process]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk