Taking Down a Goliath
Big pharma, vulnerable supply chains, an international religious network…
Joanna Cummings |
The story of the Global Pharma Health Fund reads like the plot of a conspiracy novel. But for its developer Richard Jähnke – winner of the 2017 Humanity in Science Award – the reality of fighting counterfeit medicine is far more prosaic. Equipped with his sling – a case full of chemicals, a basic TLC test, and a training manual – his aim is simple: to help spot fakes before they reach consumers.
Counterfeit medicines are a problem of epidemic proportions, particularly in resource-poor countries. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported (1) that of all poor quality and substandard counterfeit falsified products, 80 percent do not contain any active ingredients, do not contain enough active ingredient, or even contain the wrong ingredients – leaving patients with drugs that are at best ineffective, and at worst potentially fatal. Complex supply chains provide too many opportunities for adulteration, while understocked labs and expensive analysis equipment only compound the problem of detection, particularly in countries with limited financial resources and patchy power supplies. What is needed is a simple, low-cost and transportable analytical toolkit to protect the supply chain – and, ultimately, consumers.
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