Up to 500,000 people are estimated to be killed by counterfeit medicines in sub-Saharan Africa annually, according to a fresh report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Counterfeit drugs encompass unapproved, uncleared, or unlicensed medications, including those that have expired or lack necessary active ingredients.
The data reveals that 267,000 deaths are linked to falsified or substandard antimalarial medicines, while an additional 169,271 deaths are associated with falsified or substandard antibiotics used for severe pneumonia in children.
According to Statista’s Anna Fleck, the 2023 report titled “Trafficking in Medical Products in the Sahel” indicates that determining the overall quantity of trafficked medical products is challenging. However, various studies suggest that between 19% and 50% of medical products fall into the category of falsified or substandard.
International operations conducted in West Africa from 2017 to 2021 resulted in the seizure of at least 605 tons of different medical products.
The infographic titled “Up To 500,000 Killed by Fake Medicines in Sub-Saharan Africa” provides a visual representation of the issue.
The report identifies the Sahel countries, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, as heavily reliant on imported medical products due to the early stages of development in their own pharmaceutical industries. Counterfeit drugs primarily originate from pharmaceutical exporters such as Belgium, France, China, and India. These drugs either enter the illegal supply chain or are manufactured in neighboring countries.
The report underscores limited access to quality, safe, effective, and affordable medical products, as well as a lack of border controls, as key factors contributing to the high mortality figures. Poor traceability of medical products and weak legislation also contribute to the problem.