Combating counterfeit medicines

December 06, 2011

In this week's PLoS Medicine, Paul Newton of Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Lao PDR and the University of Oxford, UK and colleagues argue that public health issues, and not intellectual property or trade issues, should be the prime consideration in defining and combating counterfeit medicines. They say that the World Health Organization (WHO) should take a more prominent role. The authors advocate that an international treaty on medicine quality, under the auspices of the WHO, could play a key role in the struggle against counterfeit and substandard medicines.

The authors comment that: "Counterfeit medicines should be defined in terms of harm to health, with punishments appropriate for the injury or killing of patients. Moreover, it is imperative that public health institutions, ministries, and lawyers, and not primarily IP specialists or industrial and trade bodies, take the strategic lead in countering poor quality medicines."
Funding: Wellcome Trust (UK) for PNN & NJW. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript, except for the involvement of Chris Bird as an author.

Competing Interests: PN and NJW have scientific collaborations with the Enforcement Working Group of IMPACT, and NJW is co-chair of the WHO malaria treatment guidelines committee but none of the authors have shares in pharmaceutical companies or works as a part of IMPACT. NJW is a member of the PLoS Medicine Editorial Board. The Wellcome Trust had no role in the writing or decision to submit this viewpoint for publication, except for the involvement of CB as an author. BS is co-founder of MPedigree, which is a non-profit based in Ghana that advocates for the development of strategies to fight counterfeiting. All other authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Citation: Newton PN, Amin AA, Bird C, Passmore P, Dukes G, et al. (2011) The Primacy of Public Health Considerations in Defining Poor Quality Medicines. PLoS Med 8(12): e1001139. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001139


Paul Newton

Wellcome Trust-Mahosot Hospital
Mahosot Hospital
Thanon Mahosot
Vientiane, Vientiane 100000
Lao People's Democratic Republic
+856 21242168


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