Today, the idea that fake drugs threaten global health has become almost common-sensical. Often, these concerns are voiced in relation to how, for example, Africans’ already poor health is further imperiled by fake Indian drugs. Yet when our project team looked closely at the scientific literature backing up these claims, we found that they were based on unexpectedly weak evidence.
This project responds to this puzzle by critically re-examining our collective common-sense about fake drugs and global health. Initial research suggests that, in addition to the world of pharmacology, worries about fake drugs may be based in social worlds. When the world’s supply of live-saving drugs is beset by worries about safety, governments and citizens face difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce resources. Our project’s historical and ethnographic enquiries seek to understand the emergence and circulation of worries about fake drugs for global health, as well as to understand these worries’ effects.
This five-year research project, What’s at stake in the fake? Indian pharmaceuticals, African markets and global health, runs from 2018 to 2023 and brings together academic staff and postgraduate students based at universities in the UK, South Africa, and the Netherlands. It is funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Science.
Professor Sarah Hodges (University of Warwick), Professor Julia Hornberger (University of the Witwatersrand), and Dr Rene Gerrets (University of Amsterdam & Amsterdam Institute of Global Health and Development) are the project's principal investigator and co-investigators, respectively. Please see the Project Team webpage for more details of the staff and postgraduate students engaged in this project.
Sarah Hodges and Emma Garnett (2020). 'The ghost in the data: Evidence gaps and the problem of fake drugs in global health research', Global Public Health 15, 8: 1103-1118.