What’s at stake in the fake? Indian pharmaceuticals, African markets and global health


  1. Investigate the rise of fake-talk—the wide-spread and urgently-reiterated set of concerns about the dangers that fake drugs present
  2. Investigate what the effects of fake-talk are.


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 imperilled by fake Indian drugs. Yet when we 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 life-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.

AIGHD Research Lead

Dr. Rene Gerrets


AIGHD Postdoc

Dr. Fatima Bapumia


University of Warwick, UK

University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Contact info

Marloes Nijboer (m.nijboer@aighd.org)


Wellcome Trust


UK, India, South-Africa, and Tanzania