Fake artesunate in southeast Asia.
Newton P., Proux S., Green M., Smithuis F., Rozendaal J., Prakongpan S., Chotivanich K., Mayxay M., Looareesuwan S., Farrar J., Nosten F., White NJ.
Artesunate is a key antimalarial drug in the treatment of multidrug-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria in southeast Asia. We investigated the distribution of counterfeit artesunate tablets by use of the validated, simple, and inexpensive Fast Red TR dye technique. We also aimed to identify distinguishing characteristics of the fake drugs. Of 104 shop-bought "artesunate" samples from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam, 38% did not contain artesunate. Characteristics such as cost and physical appearance of the tablets and packaging reliably predicted authenticity. The illicit trade in counterfeit antimalarials is a great threat to the lives of patients with malaria. The dye test will assist national malaria control authorities in urgently needed campaigns to stop this murderous trade.