Boston University, USP Launch Research Program to Investigate the Link between Poor-Quality Medicines and the Rise of Antimicrobial Resistance

A new fellowship offered by Boston University (BU) and USP, a global health organization that works with experts in science and health to develop independent, transparent standards for quality in medicines and other health products, will help address a serious global health threat: substandard and falsified drugs and how these may contribute to the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Sponsored by the USP Quality Institute, the Fellowship in Quality of Medical Products at BU will recruit a fellow to conduct mentored research on evidentiary gaps in demonstrating the value of medicine quality. A research program within USP, the Quality Institute develops and disseminates research and data through partnerships with academic institutions; the BU program is the second fellowship to be established. The fellow, who will be based in Boston, will have the unique opportunity to engage in real-world training experiences, as well as interactions with USP and other stakeholders.

Substandard and falsified drugs increasingly affect people in all corners of the world, disproportionally impacting those living in low- and middle-income countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 10 percent of drugs worldwide may be substandard or falsified, particularly affecting medicines used to treat common bacterial infections and malaria.

Over time, widespread use of substandard or falsified antimicrobials contributes to these treatments becoming less effective. Yet it is unknown the extent to which poor-quality medicines drive AMR. Governments and health policy makers around the world need more data about the benefits of quality medicine to make strategic decisions about where to invest scarce resources.

Substandard or falsified drugs often appear identical to the genuine product.

“These medicines may not contain the correct substance or dose and may include harmful impurities,” explains Muhammad Zaman, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at BU, and a mentor in the fellowship program. “Differentiating genuine medicines from substandard or falsified versions is difficult and usually requires laboratory tests to confirm authenticity. This raises risks both of adverse events and of not properly treating the disease or condition for which they were intended, with potentially serious consequences, including accelerating the rise of antimicrobial resistance.”

The program pairs fellows with expert mentors from BU and USP.

“We are delighted to partner with Boston University and Dr. Zaman to develop evidence about the impact of poor-quality medicines on the rise of AMR,” said Erin Wilhelm, director of the USP Quality Institute. “Access to safe and effective quality-assured medicines is critical worldwide. This research will heighten awareness of this important public health issue.”

Qualified candidates with advanced degrees who wish to conduct research and receive specialized training in quality of medical products can view the RFA or contact Muhammad Zaman, PhD with questions.