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ObjectivesTuberculosis (TB) remains a major global public health problem, especially with the recent emergence of multidrug-resistant TB and extensively drug-resistant TB. There has been little consideration of the extent of substandard and falsified (SF) TB medicines as drivers of resistance. We assessed the evidence on the prevalence of SF anti-TB medicines and discussed their public health impact.Materials/methodsWe searched Web of Science, Medline, Pubmed, Google Scholar, WHO, US Pharmacopeia and Medicines Regulatory Agencies websites for publications on anti-TB medicines quality up to 31 October 2021. Publications reporting on the prevalence of SF anti-TB drugs were evaluated for quantitative analysis.ResultsOf the 530 screened publications, 162 (30.6%) were relevant to anti-TB medicines quality; of those, 65 (40.1%) described one or more TB quality surveys in a specific location or region with enough information to yield an estimate of the local prevalence of poor-quality TB medicines. 7682 samples were collected in 22 countries and of those, 1170 (15.2%) failed at least one quality test. 14.1% (879/6255) of samples failed in quality surveys, 12.5% (136/1086) in bioequivalence studies and 36.9% (87/236) in accelerated biostability studies. The most frequently assessed were rifampicin monotherapy (45 studies, 19.5%) and isoniazid monotherapy (33, 14.3%), rifampicin-isoniazid-pyrazinamide-ethambutol fixed dose combinations (28, 12.1%) and rifampicin-isoniazid (20, 8.6%). The median (IQR) number of samples collected per study was 12 (1–478).ConclusionsSF, especially substandard, anti-TB medicines are present worldwide. However, TB medicine quality data are few and are therefore not generalisable that 15.2% of global anti-TB medicine supply is SF. The evidence available suggests that the surveillance of the quality of TB medicines needs to be an integral part of treatment programmes. More research is needed on the development and evaluation of rapid, affordable and accurate portable devices to empower pharmacy inspectors to screen for anti-TB medicines.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Global Health



Publication Date





e012039 - e012039