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A recent study by the Medicine Quality Research Group found that during the pandemic there was a surge in low-quality COVID-19 medical products globally, including substandard and counterfeit medicines, diagnostics, PPE, sanitisers, and vaccines.

This study by MORU and IDDO’s Medicine Quality Research Group (MQRG) was included in a book, titled Medicine Across Borders: Exploration of Grey Zones, which contains insights from academics across social and medical sciences on improving safe medicine access.

The MQRG team, including Kerlijn Van Assche, Research pharmacist at IDDO, Dr Céline Caillet, Deputy Head of MQRG, Professor Paul Newton, Head of MQRG and Dr Inthaphavanh Kitignavong, Research Physician at WWARN, have contributed to a book chapter focusing on the distribution of poor-quality medical products during the COVID-19 pandemic and their public health impact.

The study by this team found during the pandemic, there was a surge in poor-quality COVID-19 related medical products circulating around the world including substandard and falsified medicines, diagnostics, personal protective equipment, sanitisers and vaccines. Throughout the pandemic they were able to utilise the Medicine Quality Monitoring Globe, an online interactive mapping tool, to collate information on these products and publish regular reports.

The chapter authors said: ‘These poor-quality products posed significant risks to public health, eroding trust in healthcare systems, causing economic losses, and compromising vaccination coverage. To better prepare for future pandemics, a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework that harmonises national and international laws to combat poor-quality medical products effectively is needed. Furthermore, better information sharing is crucial. The establishment of living global databases that provide real-time information on medical products availability, providers and quality issues identified are fundamental. The lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic offer opportunities for more effective pharmaceutical policies to improve public health during and between pandemics. Collaborative efforts between governments, international organisations, the private sector, and civil society are vital to ensure access to high-quality medical products for all.’

The book ‘Medicine Across Borders: Exploration of Grey Zones’ has an international perspective, examining the issue of substandard and falsified medical products across nationally. Falsified and poor-quality medicines are prevalent in low- and middle-income countries. This book includes research from high-income countries arguing that they too have vulnerabilities, and emphasising the need for vigilance even in well-resourced and well-regulated regimes.

Links to access the e-book are available on the IDDO website: