Thirty-five percent of malaria drugs on the Ghanaian market are of low quality, according to research by Epidemiologist and Director of Institute of Health Research at the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), Prof. Seth Owusu-Agyei.
The research report is titled “Quality of Artemisinin-based combination therapy for malaria found in Ghanaian markets and public Health implications of their use”.
A total of 254 Artemisinin-based malaria drugs selected from the middle belt of the country, were tested, and they revealed 35% malaria drugs are substandard, while 9% of were past their expiry date.
The report noted however that there were no counterfeit (falsified) medicine samples.
“This means the health of many Ghanaians who take such drugs are at risk,” Prof. Owusu-Agyei noted in his inaugural lecture at UHAS, wondering how such drugs get into the country and on to the market.
The UHAS Report is in line with a World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Surveillance and Monitoring System join report, which indicates an estimated 1 in 10 medical products circulating in low and middle-income countries is either substandard or falsified.
The Global Surveillance and Monitoring System said since 2013, it has received 1,500 reports of cases of substandard or falsified products, out of which anti-malaria drugs and antibiotics are the most commonly reported.
It said 42% of the bad drugs come from the African region, 21% from the Americas, and another 21% from the European region.
The WHO said this is worrying because the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates that 10 percent substandard and falsified medicines, could cause 116,000 additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa from malaria every year, and that could cost patients and health providers about US$38.5 million.
Prof. Owusu-Agyei is, therefore, advocating for strict laws and monitoring to protect Ghanaians from malaria.
“There are a lot of things being done to fight malaria, but more needs to be done in the area of drug law enforcement, equipping the health sector and attitudinal change on environmental sanitation, which is quite poor in Ghana,” he said.
Prof. Seth Owusu-Agyei also called on the government to make funds available for Ghanaian researchers so the country would not depend on the west for breakthroughs in the health sector.
He believes government support for researchers can help prevent a third of the malarial death.
The professor also called on young scientists and researchers in Ghana to use modern technologies to fight malaria in a much better way.