Counterfeit malaria treatment medication in Africa

18 January 2022

Article: 56/203

The World Health Organization (WHO) have issued a medical alert after one batch of falsified Combiart medication was identified in Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali, with this being confirmed by the product manufacturer. Genuine Combiart medication, a combination of artemether and lumefantrine, is used for the treatment of acute, uncomplicated malaria infections due to Plasmodium falciparum, and is effective in regions where chloroquine resistance has been reported.

Advice for travellers

Substandard and falsified, or counterfeit, medical products are a growing problem that occurs throughout the world. A wide range of counterfeit medicines are produced, including antimalarials, antibiotics, blood pressure medicine and vaccines. It is particularly important that travellers are aware that lifesaving medicines used for the prevention and treatment of malaria are often subject to counterfeiting in countries where malaria is a serious risk.

If during travel a traveller requires medication for a new illness or condition, they should be advised: 

  • to only purchase medicines from a reputable pharmacy or medical facility and obtain a receipt 
  • to inspect packaging closely for signs of poor-quality printing, spelling or labelling, which may suggest counterfeiting
  • not to obtain medicines from people or suppliers which are not linked to a reputable pharmacy or medical facility

Travellers who take regular or intermittent medication should be encouraged to obtain these in the UK prior to travel, especially if there is any cause for concern about the legitimacy of medications or medical products at their destination. Whenever possible, travellers should take sufficient supplies of chronic and preventative medicines with them to cover the duration of the trip, potential delays, and lost, stolen or damaged supplies. However, if further medicines need to be obtained abroad then travellers, in addition to the measures above, should also be advised to: 

  • carry a copy of their prescription, which should include both the generic and brand names of any medicines they are taking, including prescribed antimalarial medicines 
  • ask the pharmacist about the active ingredient in the medicine and check that it is the same as their own medicine

For further information, see the TRAVAX counterfeit medicines and travelling with medication pages.

Source: TRAVAX, 7 January 2022