Recently I saw a young woman in my travel clinic who was planning on spending the summer in India. She was behind on her immunizations and had made an appointment to find out what she needed but didn’t want any vaccinations. She wanted to know which malaria drug and antibiotics to use but planned on getting them in India to save money. She had heard they were easy to get and much cheaper there.
What she doesn’t know is that WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 3 in 10 pharmaceutical products in the African, Asian and Latin American markets are fake. And 50 to 60 percent of anti-infective medications in parts of Asia and Africa have been shown to have substandard active ingredients. That means that many of the drugs purchased abroad won’t work properly, if at all.
Not only is this a risk to the traveler for contracting the very diseases they are trying to prevent but it is a public health risk to everyone. When a traveler is under-medicated he or she then becomes an evoluntionary vector in which drug resistant super bugs develop. The traveler then spreads these bugs as they travel and brings them home.
Counterfeit medications are posing an increasing threat to patient’s health worldwide, because they offer high returns and low risks for criminal organizations, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said last week.
There are many ways travelers can save money when planning a trip. But doing so by purchasing medications and vaccinations abroad is a very dangerous and ineffective way to do so.