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Professor Paul Newton

Professor Paul Newton

Podcast interview

Poor quality medicines

Poor quality medicines are a serious threat to our health. Falsified medicines and substandards medicines are a problem for all countries, but particularly for low and middle income countries where we see, for example, a large epidemic of fake anti-malarial drugs. Globally, better medicine regulatory authorities will help improve the quality of our medicines.

View podcast transcript

Paul Newton

Professor of Tropical Medicine

  • Head of WWARN Antimalarial Quality Scientific Group


We are a small clinical tropical medicine research group, the Lao-Oxford-Mahosot Hospital-Wellcome Research Unit (LOMWRU), based at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane in Laos. Vientiane is a small capital city, on the banks of the Mekong River, of a country of 6 million people but of the size of the UK. We are embedded in the Microbiology Laboratory of the Hospital and linked to the Mahidol University Oxford University Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok and the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) in Mae Sot, Thailand. Core funding for the research is from Wellcome (UK).

We conduct clinical research to help improve global, regional and Lao public health and to build capacity for this in Laos. Our research aims to provide global, regional organisations and the Lao Government with key data that will help make evidence-based decisions for individual patients and for health policy. The conditions we concentrate on include malaria, scrub typhus, murine typhus, melioidosis, typhoid, dengue, leptospirosis and the causes of central nervous system infections. We also investigate diseases of nutrition and poverty such as infantile beriberi and noma and build diagnostic, clinical and research capacity. Early work demonstrated the importance of local knowledge in deciding policy and the heterogeneity of infectious disease epidemiology in rural Asia. We also perform clinical trials on malaria, typhoid, murine typhus and scrub typhus treatment and evaluate locally appropriate diagnostic tests for key diseases.

With the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO) we conduct a diversity of research projects on medicine quality epidemiology, diagnostics, law and advocacy for this benighted field to be taken more seriously, especially the severe public health problem of falsified antimalarials in Asia and Africa.

That research in Laos has significant impact beyond its borders will become increasingly important as the country becomes more connected, dramatically with forthcoming transnational high-speed railways and multiple new highways. With Laos, and adjacent areas of Zomia, having great ethnic diversity, large forest tracts and wildlife trade understanding the clinical epidemiology of infectious diseases, especially zoonoses, is of great importance.

We build human medical research capacity in Laos and produce a Lao and English language medical journal – the Mahosot Microbiology Review and assist with the production of the Lao Medical Journal.