Purchasing Medications in Foreign Countries
By: Fran Lessons, R.N., M.S.,
President, Passport Health, Inc.
Some travelers, who may think they will save money, wait to buy
expensive anti-malVerdana drugs and other medications in foreign countries.
Recent studies reported in Tropical Medicine and International Health and
World Health Organization (WHO) publications have shown that many
foreign-bought medications are substandard. Sophisticated chemical
analysis of 96 samples of chloroquine and selected antibacterial's that
were bought in pharmacies and non-pharmacies in Nigeria and Thailand,
showed that 36.5% of these preparations were substandard.
In most developing countries, items that require a prescription in the
Western world are readily available over-the-counter or are sold in
non-pharmacies. Commonly used drugs chosen by researchers for testing
included chloroquine, amoxicillin, tetracycline, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxizole,
ampicillin and cloxicillin. Although there could be many reasons for poor
quality – including fraud, poor manufacturing techniques or
decomposition due to poor storage – the study concluded that the major
reason for inferior medications were likely poor manufacturing procedures
and inadequate quality assurance. These were compounded by the
decomposition of active ingredients, probably the result of storage under
adverse climatic conditions such as high humidity and high temperature.
There were six cases in which medications – 5 chloroquine products and
one amoxicillin product – contained no active ingredient. All of the
samples tested were within their expiration dates. Treatment failure and
drug resistance are possible consequences of the use of substandard drugs.