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Updated Jan 22, 2020

Togo held a conference over the weekend of January 17–19, 2020, inviting numerous African heads of state to tackle a widespread problem afflicting the continent: counterfeit drugs. These drugs have already killed thousands of sick Africans, siphoned millions out of the legal economy, and contributed to the funding of armed terrorist groups in the Sahel and central Africa. 

Along with Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé, who headed the conference, multiple African heads of state were in attendance, among them Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Gambian President Adama Barrow, Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou, Republic of the Congo’s President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, and Senegalese President Macky Sall.

On Monday, January 20, these heads of state signed the Lomé Initiative in conjunction with the non-profit UK charity group Brazzaville Foundation to set up a regulatory framework criminalizing the distribution of fake medicine. 

The World Health Organization estimates that there exists a US$30 billion trade network of fake drugs. A recent study conducted by the international body found that up to 10.5 percent of drugs in low and middle-income countries were fake or substandard. In the same study it was found that fake drugs were responsible for up to nine percent of fatalities linked to malaria for those seeking treatment. For childhood pneumonia, substandard drugs resulted in 72,430 deaths, whereas fake drugs were responsible for 169,721 deaths. The research drew on 48,000 samples of drugs sourced from eighty-eight countries.

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