Five Minilabs to detect fake medicines presented to Zambia, five more to Tanzania

To help improve health care and detect counterfeit medicines in Zambia, the Global Pharma Health Fund, a charitable initiative funded by the German pharmaceutical, chemical and life science company Merck, has donated five mobile compact laboratories to the Health Ministry in the capital city of Lusaka today. The so-called Minilabs can be used to identify counterfeit and inferior quality medicines rapidly and reliably. In this context, Dr. Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the Merck Executive Board, met with the Minister of Health of Zambia, Honorable Dr. Joseph Kasonde today in Lusaka. On Monday this week, another five Minilabs have already been presented to Dr. Hadji Hussein Mponda, Tanzania’s Minister for Health and Social Welfare.

“Counterfeit medicines are a serious threat to health care. With the Minilabs, we are directly protecting people from what can be a deadly risk,” Kley told journalists. “In addition, we are helping to improve the structures for drug quality monitoring and ensuring that scarce resources are not wasted on worthless, and even hazardous, medicines.” Kley added: “The mobile compact laboratories are globally unique for their ability to detect counterfeits quickly, cost-efficiently and reliably. With them, one can relieve bottlenecks in quality control for medicines, especially in rural areas.”

The International Police Organization Interpol estimates that up to 30% of all medicines in Africa are either counterfeit or of inferior quality. In this context, the Minilab offers quick, simple and low-cost test methods to check medicines for physical abnormalities, identity and content, and identifies 57 active pharmaceutical ingredients, particularly those in medicines commonly used against infectious diseases. The test methods include those for common antibiotics, anthelmintics, virustatics, anti-malarial medicines, tuberculostatics, and other medicines.

To date, the GPHF has supplied about 470 Minilabs at plain material cost, to more than 80 countries. More than half of these countries are located in Africa, and one-third are in Asia. The combination of a simple, reliable test set for onsite testing and a manual with detailed instructions on performing the test is unique. Merck continues to participate in external research with the aim of increasing the number of medicines that can be tested as well as to discover other possibilities for optimizing the Minilab. Training is also offered to ensure that the users are familiar with the test procedure.

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