Sub-standard and counterfeit medicines are a growing threat to public health in the developing world.
A 2010 World Health Organization study of 26 sub-Saharan Africa countries concluded that many of them “did not have the capacity to control the quality, safety and efficacy of medicines circulating in their markets or passing through their territories”.
The issue became glaringly obvious to Marium Qaiser when she took up a six-month PULSE assignment with IHP in 2012. Her specific task was to establish a process for facilitating the donation of scientific equipment no longer needed by pharmaceutical companies to quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) laboratories in developing countries, initially Pakistan. But it soon became clear that the simple recycling of equipment was only one part of the equation.
"If we really want to improve quality control capabilities in the developing world to combat the problem of sub-standard and counterfeit medicines, we also have to make sure the equipment donated is in good condition and serviceable by the manufacturers. Most importantly of all, we need to make sure that people in the laboratories actually know how to calibrate and use the equipment properly,” she says.
“With many pharma companies merging or reorganising their operations worldwide, there is spare capacity in the industry in terms of both equipment and expertise. Enabling the use of these resources to strengthen capabilities in the developing world can generate direct benefits for the countries involved and support the social responsibility programmes of the companies, while also improving the countries’ regulatory processes and the efficiency of their healthcare systems.”
After conducting an audit for the safe arrival, implementation and installation of equipment at laboratories in Pakistan, Marium set about organising and co-ordinating an ‘Intro to Quality Management Systems’ workshop in a consortium with five other multi-national companies. This was run in partnership with GSK Pakistan and with the support of the Pharma Bureau, Pakistan’s industry body, as well as the WHO, the drug regulatory authorities and health ministries.