The Global Pandemic of Falsified Medicines: Laboratory and Field Innovations and Policy Implications
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Counterfeit (or falsified) and substandard medicines pose a major public health risk. We describe the findings of Operation Storm I and II conducted in 2008–2009 to combat counterfeit medicines through partnership between national customs, Drug Regulatory Agencies (DRAs), and police in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Samples were obtained from seizures and market surveillance by national DRAs. Laboratory analysis using spectroscopic and chromatographic techniques and examination of packaging were performed. Ninety-three suspect antibiotics and 95 antimalarial samples were collected. Of the 93 antibiotics, 29 (31%) had % active pharmaceutical ingredient content (%API) < 85% or > 115% (including one counterfeit). Of the 95 antimalarials, 30 (32%) had %API < 85 > 115% API (including one counterfeit). A significant minority of samples, antimalarials (13%) and antibiotics (15%), were collected in plastic bags with minimal or no labeling. Of 20 ampicillin samples, 13 (65%) contained < 85% API (with one counterfeit containing additional amoxicillin). Of 34 oral artesunate samples, 7 (21%) contained %API out of the 85–115% range. Coordinated and synergistic partnership adopted by the participating countries, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), World Health Organization (WHO), and laboratories facilitated a platform for discussions and intelligence sharing, helping to improve each participating country's capacity to combat poor-quality medicines.

[open-access] This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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  • Received : 12 Sep 2014
  • Accepted : 05 Jan 2015

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