Portable Screening Devices for Medicine Quality: Putting Power into the Hands of Regulators in Low-Resource Settings

Publication | October 2018

This brief analyzes the benefits and challenges of using portable screening devices to regulate medicine quality in low-income countries.

Across Asia and the Pacific, countries are striving to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC)—equitable access to quality medical care without undue financial hardship—in order to meet their population’s right to health. The quality medical care component of UHC relies on accessible and good quality supplies of essential medicines that treat patients as intended, and do not expose them to additional adverse effects. When medicine standards are not upheld, patients are placed in harm’s way, and waste out‑of‑pocket payments. Moreover, the community’s trust in the health-care system is also undermined.

Key Points

  • Substandard and falsified medicines pose a threat to malaria elimination, and also to regional health security. They harm patients, undermine health systems, and are likely to contribute to antimicrobial resistance.
  • In the Greater Mekong Subregion, national regulatory authorities (NRAs) are underresourced and need tools to help improve their capacity and efficiency in post-market surveillance of medicines. Portable medicine quality screening devices hold promise in this regard.
  • A consortium from Oxford University and Georgia Institute of Technology assessed the comparative sensitivity, specificity, cost-effectiveness, and usability of a range of devices and technologies to detect poor quality antimalarial and antimicrobial medicines.
  • All devices tested were capable of detecting falsified medicines containing the wrong or no active ingredient, but they were not able to reliably detect substandard medicines. They were cost-effective from a societal perspective based on a hypothetical scenario in the Lao PDR.
  • Stakeholders and partners should collaborate to support independent testing, development of policy guidance, and establishment of centers of excellence to assist NRAs realize the potential of portable medicine screening devices.

Additional Details

  • Health
  • Communicable and vector-borne diseases
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • 8
  • 8.5 x 11
  • BRF189611-2
  • 978-92-9261-368-6 (print)
  • 978-92-9261-369-3 (electronic)
  • 2071-7202 (print)
  • 2218-2675 (electronic)


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