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Charity drugs 'sold for profit'

Free malaria drugs sent to Africa by international donors are being stolen and resold on commercial markets, a new study has found.

American and British experts bought malaria medicines randomly from private pharmacies in 11 African cities.

They found 6.5%, were supposed to have been donated to government hospitals and clinics.

The study will be published on Thursday in the journal Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine.

The finding was particularly strong in artemesinin combination drugs, the best available malaria drugs, and those often purchased by international donors.

In 2007, they found about 15% of such donated drugs had been stolen for resale. This year, it was nearly 30%.

According to an audit last year by the US President's Malaria Initiative, about 640,000 dollars (£417,000) of medicines sent to Angola vanished from airports and the government's medicines warehouse.

"Critical malaria commodities are not reaching their intended beneficiaries and more Angolans may be unnecessary victims," the report said.

Outside experts said donated drugs regularly disappear across corruption-plagued Africa.

"The study is important because it clearly documents something that we need to study (the issue) more closely," said Tido von Schoen-Angerer, a director at Medecins Sans Frontieres, which works across Africa.

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