Low quality pharmaceuticals are a global problem
Many of the pharmaceuticals that are purchased in the developing world are substandard or outright fake drugs. Although there is no global system for monitoring the quality of medicine, study after study reveals pervasive poor quality and products that are worthless or even harmful to patients. Many countries in the developing world do not have the technological infrastructure or regulatory resources to keep low quality medicines off the market shelves. And since the pharmaceutical trade is a lucrative global market, low quality medicine can cross borders and harm people anywhere in the world.
We are making tools to solve this problem.
Paper analytical devices (PADs) are test cards that can quickly determine whether a drug tablet contains the correct medicines. They are cheap and easy to use. They don't require power, chemicals, solvents, or any expensive instruments, so they can be deployed rapidly at large scale whereever a problem with pharmaceutical quality is suspected.
We are leveling the playing field.
These little test cards could change the balance of power between sellers and buyers. Right now, most buyers have to trust what the seller tells them about the quality of the pharmaceuticals they purchase. Unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors know that there is little chance that their medicines will be screened in a lab. These paper test cards don't need a lab, and they will enable people all over the world to quickly detect low quality medicines and remove them from the market.
Last Thursday May 21, I had the opportunity to visit the Center for Pharmaceutical Advancement and Training in Accra, Ghana. This lab facility was established by USP in May of 2013, so it's just two years old. The director is Dr. Eric Kwasi Boateng. The lab carries out USP analysis of a wide range of pharmaceuticals; they work with manufacturers who want to ensure high quality products, and also with organizations that buy lots of medical products, such as country MRAs and NGOs. The lab also develops new tests and offers training sessions and hands-on workshops to teach medical regulators and analytical chemists how to perform the assays. There is even a course in HPLC troubleshooting and maintenance. It's a really useful resource. …