Dear Friends,

As we know, substandard and falsified (SF) medical products negatively affect patients’ safety and health outcomes, health systems’ financial sustainability, public trust in health systems, and they are a co-cause of antimalarials and antimicrobial resistance. Therefore, sound research on SF medical products is important in order to raise awareness, to understand the causes and distribution of SF medical products, and to provide guidance to regulators for preventing and detecting them. This timely study from Sweileh looked into past and current patterns of global research publications on SF products.

Overall, 978 documents were retrieved from Scopus, published from 1961 to 2020, authored by 2861 researchers from 100 different countries, and published in 421 different journals. Findings indicate that research on SF medical products “has experienced a steep growth from 2001 to 2012 followed by a steady-state growth”, suggesting increasing attention from academia for an emerging problem in public health (indeed, the problem has grown in parallel with globalization of pharmaceutical production and supply chains, in absence of stringent regulation). It also appears that papers were disseminated in a wide range of journals, mainly in the fields of the pharmaceutical industry, analytical chemistry, public health, infectious diseases, and internal medicine: which is good in itself but may make it more difficult to stay up-to-date with emerging literature, particularly when papers are not published open access.

Even if most papers were published by scholars with diverse and distant geographical backgrounds, it looks that the research “was mainly produced in the US, UK, and Germany”, with “fragmented research networks and a limited number of researchers per network, with “limited cross-country collaboration”, and “received relatively inadequate funding”. It is also noted that published research “emphasized on medications related to malaria and sexual stimulants”. These findings suggest that more efforts are needed to expand the scope of research, for instance including medicines for NCDs, NTDs etc.; and to empower researchers from low- and middle-income countries to develop and conduct research that aims at informing national and regional regulatory policies and practices.

Have a nice read ….. and as usual, I retake this opportunity to remind you that the second ITM short-course on Pharmaceutical Policies in Health Systems will take place in Antwerp, from 30th May to 17th June 2022. Those interested can already apply now, and until the end of January 2022, at https://edu.itg.be/courses/pharmaceutical-policies-in-health-systems

Raffaella

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