Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research

Substandard anti-malarial drugs in Burkina Faso

Maike Tipke1*, Salou Diallo2, Boubacar Coulibaly2, Dominic Störzinger3, Torsten Hoppe-Tichy3, Ali Sie2 and Olaf Müller1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Tropical Hygiene and Public Health, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 324, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

2 Centre de Recherche en Santé de Nouna (CRSN), Nouna, POB 2, Burkina Faso

3 University Pharmacy, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 670, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

Malaria Journal 2008, 7:95  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-7-95

Published: 27 May 2008



There is concern about an increasing infiltration of markets by substandard and fake medications against life-threatening diseases in developing countries. This is particularly worrying with regard to the increasing resistance development of Plasmodium falciparum against affordable anti-malarial medications, which has led to a change to more expensive drugs in most endemic countries.


A representative sample of modern anti-malarial medications from licensed (public and private pharmacies, community health workers) and illicit (market and street vendors, shops) sources has been collected in the Nouna Health District in north-western Burkina Faso in 2006. All drugs were tested for their quality with the standard procedures of the German Pharma Health Fund-Minilab. Detected low standard drugs were re-tested with European Pharmacopoeia 2.9.1 standards for disintegration and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy at the laboratory of the Heidelberg University for confirmation.


Overall, 86 anti-malarial drug samples were collected, of which 77 samples have been included in the final analysis. The sample consisted of 39/77 (50%) chloroquine, 10/77 (13%) pyrimethamine-sulphadoxine, 9/77 (12%) quinine, 6/77 (8%) amodiaquine, 9/77 (12%) artesunate, and 4/77 (5%) artemether-lumefantrine. 32/77 (42%) drug samples were found to be of poor quality, of which 28 samples failed the visual inspection, nine samples had substandard concentrations of the active ingredient, four samples showed poor disintegration, and one sample contained non of the stated active ingredient. The licensed and the illicit market contributed 5/47 (10.6%) and 27/30 (90.0%) samples of substandard drugs respectively.


These findings provide further evidence for the wide-spread existence of substandard anti-malarial medications in Africa and call for strengthening of the regulatory and quality control capacity of affected countries, particularly in view of the now wider available and substantially more costly artemisinin-based combination therapies.