One in 10 medical products, including medicines, in low- and middle-income countries is either fake or substandard, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns in a new report.

The United Nations health agency further warned that such products are a waste of money and pose serious danger to health, and may even result to death. 

WHO has received 1,500 reports of substandard or falsified medical products; anti-malarials and antibiotics are common.

“Substandard and falsified medicines particularly affect the most vulnerable communities. Imagine a mother who gives up food or other basic needs to pay for her child’s treatment, unaware that the medicines are substandard or falsified, and then that treatment causes her child to die. This is unacceptable,” says WHO Director General D Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Majority of the substandard cases reportedly came from the WHO African Region with 42 percent, WHO Region of the Americas with 21 percent, and WHO European Region with 21 percent.

However, cases may be under-reported as there are low level reports coming from the WHO Western Pacific Region (8 percent), WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (6 percent) and WHO South East Asia Region (2 percent).

Substandard or falsified medical products are not confined to high-value medicines such as cancer drugs, said WHO in their Global Surveillance and Monitoring System, but also among generic and patented products.

WHO has trained 550 regulators in 141 countries to spot suspicious medical products.

“Substandard or falsified medicines not only have a tragic impact on individual patients and their families, but also are a threat to antimicrobial resistance adding to the worrying trend of medicines losing their power to treat,” said Dr Mariangela Simao, Assistant Director General for Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals at WHO.

The WHO also notes that there is 10.5 percent failure rate in all medical products used in low- and middle-income countries. The estimation was based on research papers from 88 countries and 48,000 medicine samples.

In 2016, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration warned against counterfeit versions of popular drugs. Recently, the FDA confiscated unregistered cosmetic products in Mandaue. MIMS