- A claim circulating on social media alleges that 40% of the medicines sold in Africa are actually fake
- This statistic is often linked to the World Health Organisation who reported on the situation
- Briefly.co.za explores the claims to separate fact from fiction
As recently as this year, social media has been abuzz over a claim that 40% of the medication sold in Africa is fake.
Africa Check reports that this statistic is often linked to the WHO, which reported that “42% of all fake medicines that were reported between 2013 and 2017 came from Africa”.
However, the organisation says the data no longer represented the situation in Africa.
The initial study was published in 2017, with the WHO commenting that:
“For many years, the response to this important threat to public health was embroiled in the discussion of complex definitions that meant different things to different people."
The study noted that the term fake medication had included the following definitions:
- Substandard medical products: also called “out of specification”: these are authorised medical products that fail to meet either their quality standards or their specifications, or both.
- Unregistered/unlicensed medical products: Medical products that have not undergone evaluation and/or approval by the national or regional regulatory authority for the market in which they are marketed/distributed or used, subject to permitted conditions under national or regional regulation and legislation.
- Falsified medical products: Medical products that deliberately/fraudulently misrepresent their identity, composition or source.
In response to the claim, Dr Elizabeth Pisani clarified that the organisation worked with information provided to them:
“The WHO data is based on a case reporting system. That means that it counts whatever is reported to it, but what is reported is not, repeat not, representative of what is actually out there."
In conclusion, Pisani pointed out that the data failed to provide an accurate depiction of the true situation on the continent:
“This figure (42%) does not represent the real proportion of what is out there.”
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