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OBJECTIVES:In 2012, a stratified random survey, using mystery shoppers, was conducted to investigate the availability and quality of antibiotics sold to patients in the private sector in five southern provinces of the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos). METHODS:A total of 147 outlets were sampled in 10 districts. The active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) content measurements for 909 samples, including nine APIs (amoxicillin, ampicillin, ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, ofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline and trimethoprim), were determined using HPLC. RESULTS:All the analysed samples contained the stated API and we found no evidence for falsification. All except one sample had all the units tested with %API values between 75% and 125% of the content stated on the label. However, we identified the presence of substandard antibiotics: 19.6% (201/1025) of samples had their units outside the 90%-110% content of the label claim and 60.2% (617/1025) of the samples had units outside of the International Pharmacopoeia uniformity of content limit range. Amoxicillin had a high number of samples [67.1% (151)] with units above the limit range, followed by ciprofloxacin [58.8% (10)] and ofloxacin [57.4% (39)]. Ceftriaxone, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole had the highest number of samples with low API content: 57.1% (4), 51.6% (64) and 34.7% (43), respectively. Significant differences in %API were found between stated countries of manufacture and stated manufacturers. CONCLUSIONS:With the global threat of antimicrobial resistance to patient outcomes, greater understanding of the role of poor-quality antibiotics is needed. Substandard antibiotics will have reduced therapeutic efficacy, impacting public health and control of bacterial infections.

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of antimicrobial chemotherapy

Publication Date





2417 - 2425


Lao-Oxford-Mahosot Hospital-Wellcome Trust Research Unit (LOMWRU), Microbiology Laboratory, Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Lao PDR.