Ford alum, Fitzpatrick, investigating counterfeit medicines in Africa

February 15, 2016

Anne Fitzpatrick (PhD ’15) is furthering her dissertation by evaluating the prevailing perception that counterfeit and falsified medications are widespread in developing countries.

“Previous research indicated that as many as one-third of antimalarial drugs in poor countries were thought to be of low quality,” said Fitzpatrick who is currently an assistant professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. “Motivated by these facts, I traveled to Uganda to conduct a study in the antimalarial drug market.”

To conduct her study, Fitzpatrick sent mystery shoppers to purchase the medicines; the shoppers varied in whether they asked the provider for a diagnosis or advice on what type of drug to purchase. She then tested each drug for chemical quality with a handheld spectrometer.

“We find first that substandard drugs are rare; only about 3.8 percent. Moreover, we find that improved customer information lowers prices (roughly 5 percent) but also lowers quality,” concluded Fitzpatrick.

“In addition to a dissertation, this project has helped me make many friends abroad and been very fun and rewarding. I thank the Ford School for helping me make this possible.”

--Story by Alex Berger (MPP '17)