The problem of poor quality medicines is a global issue affecting many classes of drugs. Products may be substandard because of poor manufacturing or deliberately counterfeited or falsified in some way. Such medicines are a danger to patients and may result in treatment failure or the development of drug resistance.
The impact of poor quality medicines is particularly devastating in developing economies, which may lack resources to monitor and combat the situation. To meet this need, Souly Phanouvong and co-workers of the US Pharmacopoeial Convention described how the Promoting the Quality of Medicines Program (PQM) created the Medicines Quality Database (MQDB) at the 74th International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress in Bangkok. The free, publically available online database, set up in 2011, contains results of medicines quality testing from 17 countries in Africa, Asia and South America.
Drugs are collected from the public, private and informal sectors and analysed in accredited laboratories. Because the protocols used for collecting, sampling and analysing data are standardised, this allows comparisons to be made between countries. This data then allows national Medicines Regulatory Authorities (MRAs) to monitor the quality of drugs circulating in their markets and take action when necessary. The database contains more than 13,000 records of medicines collected and this information has been used by MRAs in various investigations led by INTERPOL and the World Health Organisation.
In addition, the data has been used to track and arrest counterfeiters, ban poor quality antimalarials made by a number of companies, seize stocks of counterfeit drugs, shut down illegal medicine outlets and raise awareness among both the public and local pharmacists of the dangers of substandard and counterfeit drugs. The MQDB can be accessed at: http://www.usp.org/global-health-impact-programs/promoting-quality-medicines-pqmusaid/medicines-quality-database-mqdb.