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‘The Traffickers’ is a 2016 British-American 8-part investigative television series on Netflix about the illegal trafficking of goods – and one of their episodes is focusing on the global illegal trade of falsified medicine! The British journalist and TV host Nelufar Hedayat follows the trail of a global criminal network of falsified medicines – starting in Benin where she meets with patients, doctors and pharmacists to Nigeria where she interviews traffickers, she ultimately arrives in China where the fake medicines are being manufactured.
In Benin, Nelufar Hedayat went to local health facilities and talked to health professionals, patients and pharmacists about one of the most common diseases in the country: malaria and with it the country’s high prevalence of falsified antimalarials.
Speaking to local healthcare professionals, she found out that malaria is predominantly affecting young children, and if the infection is not treated correctly, it can be fatal for the very young patients. With Benin being one of the poorest countries in Africa, families cannot afford the high-quality medicines to treat malaria and choose to purchase instead the falsified antimalarials from street markets which can further endanger their children’s health and safety.
‘Parents in Africa, especially in Benin, they are poor, so they try to find solutions elsewhere like in the market. They only come to us when those solutions do not work. As these are not controlled medicines, we are not sure of the quality, and by giving those medicines to children, we expose them to other health problems like kidney and liver problems. […] It’s hard to say but at least half the patients who are admitted here have bought street medicine.’
(Health professional interviewed by Nelufar Hedayat in ‘Fake Pharma’)
The latest World Malaria report from 2018 shed light on the global prevalence of malaria and it was revealed that children under the age of 5 were the most vulnerable group affected by malaria – they accounted for 61% of all malaria deaths worldwide. Falsified antimalarials have a gruesome impact on deaths attributed to malaria: On a global scale, it is estimated that that fake antimalarials contribute to nearly 450,000 preventable deaths every year.
If you want to learn more about the global criminal network of falsified medicines, don’t miss out on this excellent documentary!
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Link to Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/be-en/title/80175290 | Episode 5: ‘Fake Pharma’