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A shocking revelation

Feb 1, 2012, 12:06 PM

It is nothing short of outrageous to read that fake and poor quality anti-malarial drugs are threatening efforts to control the disease in Africa, and could put millions of lives at risk.

Scientists, who discovered this after a study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, warns that the counterfeit medicines could harm patients and promote drug resistance among malaria parasites.

The scientists examined fake and sub-standard anti-malarial drugs that were found on sale in 11 African countries between 2002 and 2010.

They discovered that some counterfeits contained a mixture of the wrong pharmaceutical ingredients, which would initially alleviate the symptoms of malaria, but would not cure it.

Some of the ingredients in the tablets could cause potentially serious side effects, the study found, especially if they were mixed with other drugs a patient might be taking, like anti-retrovirals to treat HIV.

Considering the amount of money spent over the years in the fight against malaria, not only in The Gambia and other parts of the world, this is no doubt a shocking revelation.

Many countries around the world, including The Gambia have registered significant strides in the control and prevention of malaria, through the change of treatment policy and the provision of the anti-malarial drug called Coartem in all public health facilities, as well as an increased community mobilisation and participation to prevent malaria.

However, what is more shocking is that despite all the gains registered in the fight against malaria, it is clear from this latest study that much more needs to be done to ensure a malaria-free society.

Malaria is a particular problem, and a major one in areas of Asia, Africa, Central and South America. The disease poses a serious threat to society and, unless precautions are taken, our countries will face serious consequences.

Malaria is a major killer-disease, and thus deserves our respect. Research revealed that, every year, between 350 and 500 million people get infected, and one million die, as a result of malaria, predominantly in the sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet many ignore the need to take anti-malarial medication, or fail to take it properly.

Specifically, more attention must be focused on monitoring and evaluation of malaria policies at all levels to ensure proper implementation of programmes, identify problems, trends or constraints, evaluate the impact of interventions, and ensure accountability.

We believe that anything that would draw us back from our achievements in the fight against Malaria should not be accepted.

Whoever is responsible should be identified and forced to answer for their actions.

That this situation would continue is unacceptable. It is even an all too clear example of a shocking failure on the part of some African governments to give more attention to the fight against Malaria.

“Everything that used to be a sin is now a disease.”

Bill Maher