Substandard and falsified (SF) medical products are a global public health threat. The presence and spread of SF drugs negatively affect (1) patients’ safety and health outcomes, (2) national economy, (3) public trust in the healthcare system, and (4) the international fight against serious health challenges such as malaria and antimicrobial resistance. The objective of the current study was to investigate and provide a snapshot analysis of the evolution and developmental patterns of global research publications on SF products.
A bibliometric approach was adopted using terms such as fake, falsified, counterfeit, substandard, and others. No language restriction was made. The study period was from 1900 up to 2020. The search strategy was validated and implemented using Scopus database.
The search strategy retrieved 978 documents authored by 2861 researchers from 100 different countries and published in 421 different journals. The retrieved documents received 11,237 citations (11.5 citations per document) with an H-index of 53. The 978 documents retrieved from Scopus were published from 1961 to 2020, giving an average of 16.6 publications per year. The present study indicated that research on SF medical products: (a) has experienced a steep growth from 2001 to 2012 followed by a steady-state growth; (b) was disseminated in a wide range of journals, mainly in the fields of the pharmaceutical industry, analytical chemistry, public health, infectious diseases, and internal medicine; (c) was published by scholars with diverse and distant geographical backgrounds; (d) was mainly produced in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany; (d) has fragmented research networks and a limited number of researchers per network; (e) has limited cross-country collaboration except for that between the US and the UK in one hand and countries in the Mekong region in the other hand; (f) emphasized on medications related to malaria and sexual stimulants; and (g) received relatively inadequate funding.
Research on SF medical products is important and should remain a priority to ensure good quality of medications. Research activity in the field needs to be encouraged in world regions such as Africa and the Middle East where drug regulations are unsatisfactory and cross-border trade of illegal medications is common.