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Medicines are of vital importance in health systems, and access to quality-assured medicines is part of the basic right to health. Nevertheless, poor quality medical products, including medicines, vaccines and diagnostic devices, are widespread due to poor manufacture (substandard medicines) or deliberate falsiﬁcation. These jeopardise national, regional and global attempts to improve access to effective health care because they lead to avoidable morbidity and mortality, waste ﬁnancial resources, and contribute to drug resistance.
The available evidence suggests that this is an important global problem. However, the reality is that we do not know its true scale. There have been reports of poor quality medicines and medical devices in both high and middle-income countries but many reports are from low-income countries. Many nations have inadequate surveillance systems, and poor quality medicines are often not detected or reported.
Poor quality medicines have far-reaching consequences, but our ability to tackle the problem is hampered by its complexity. The solution can only come from collaborative work between governmental authorities, pharmaceutical suppliers, healthcare professionals, national/international organizations, and research institutions.
The Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO) Medicine Quality Group tackles this important issue by sharing expertise and collating information to increase understanding of the prevalence and distribution of poor quality medicines around the world. IDDO encourages discussion of poor quality medicine epidemiology, detection and prevention, and aims to facilitate improvement in the quality of medicines that patients actually take. IDDO also advocates for more investment in the regulation of medicine distribution and treatment adherence and interventions to improve medicine quality.
IDDO is building upon the success of the WWARN Medicine Quality Group which works to share expertise and collate information on poor quality antimalarials.