Counterfeit Malaria Drugs Threaten Crisis in Africa

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 say. Some of the fake tablets are said to have originated in China.

The researchers, from the Wellcome Trust-Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration, published their work in the Malaria Journal. 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. Malaria is believed to kill 800,000 people in the world every year.

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. The malaria parasite can, after a period of time, develop resistance to the drugs being used to treat it.

The researchers warn that the fake drugs could lead to the same effect on artemisinin, one of the most effective drugs now being used to treat malaria. They say small quantities of artemisinin derivatives are being put in some of the counterfeit products to ensure that they get a certificate stating they have passde authenticity tests. However, at the level it is present, these drugs are unlikely to rid the body of malaria parasites, but could enable them to build up resistance to artemisinin, experts warn.

The lead researcher on the study, Dr Paul Newton, called for urgent measures from African governments to tackle counterfeit anti-malarials.


Source: BBC News

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Nigeria Passes Anti-Gay Bill

The Nigerian senate has passed a bill banning same-sex marriages, defying a threat from Britain to withhold aid from nations violating gay rights. The bill by Africa’s most populous nation calls for a 14-year sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality. Anyone who aids or “abets” same-sex unions faces 10 years in prison, a provision that could target rights groups. It goes to the nation’s House of Representatives for a vote before President Goodluck Jonathan can sign it into law.

The bill passed Tuesday comes nearly a month after British Prime Minister, David Cameron, threatened to withhold aid from nations violating gays’ rights, sparking outrage in Africa where leaders interpreted it as “colonial” display of power. Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries based on remnants of sodomy laws introduced during the British colonial era and perpetuated by cultural beliefs. Punishments across the continent range from fines to years in prison.

Soon after his remarks earlier this month, a flurry of African governments released defiant statements accusing him of undermining their sovereignty and culture. Last week, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, known for his anti-gay rhetoric, called the prime minister “satanic” for demanding gay rights.

Cameron’s statements also sparked a fiery debate among Africans on social media, where opinions were divided. Others said while denying aid would be extreme; the continent has a long way to go when it comes to human rights.

Sexual violence against lesbians has become so common in South Africa; the nation has coined a new term “corrective rape” to describe it. South Africa — one of the more progressive nations in the continent on the issue — was the first African country to impose a constitutional ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation.


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