Medicine Quality Monitoring Globe data categories

Drugs: ATC

Describes types of medicine products reported in the articles, using the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).


Although important consensus has been achieved with the adoption of substandard and falsified definitions by the WHO at the Seventieth World Health Assembly in 2017, confusion over the terms used to describe medicine quality remains in lay literature.

Information on the quality of medicines in the MQM Globe is extrapolated from the terms used in the articles. There is often confusion in the lay literature between the terms falsified, substandard, spurious, fraudulent, degraded and counterfeit and these terms need to be interpreted with great caution. See the WHO recommended terms


Five types and definitions of quality are used in the MQM Globe: 

Falsified – samples with falsified packaging and the correct stated amount of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API); or those containing a wrong API, or incorrect API quantity, or no API; or samples without genuine packaging available to compare with and the wrong or no stated API. Without packaging analysis, samples that had wrong API or no API we assume to be falsified but acknowledge that this in imperfect with potential confusion with substandard medicines.

Good quality – samples that did not fail chemical assays and/or packaging tests.

Substandard – samples with genuine packaging but incorrect API quantity or type or defects in dissolution/disintegration or not sterile.

Substandard or falsified  samples, without reference packaging available for comparison, containing incorrect quantities of the correct API or failure to comply with other quality specifications (e.g. dissolution tests, contents of impurity, sterility etc).

Degraded  samples with genuine packaging, containing the correct or incorrect quantity of API with chemical evidence of degradation.

Diverted/Unregistered – diverted or unregistered medicines. These medicines could be good quality, substandard or falsified or of unknown quality.

The type of outlet where medicines/medical products were collected/bought/seized:

  • Private pharmacy – licensed pharmacy outside of government or NGO or international organisation distribution system. Includes public-private mix
  • Hospital pharmacy – licensed pharmacy within a public or private health facility that includes inpatient beds
  • Unlicensed outlets – unlicensed/unauthorised outlet, including shops and markets selling medical products
  • Non-governmental organisation – non-governmental-national or international organisation, including faith based, distributing/selling/donating medical products
  • Clandestine laboratory – unauthorised laboratory producing medical products
  • Distributor/Wholesaler – authorised distributor or wholesaler of medicines whose prime objective is the high level stocking of medicines and their distribution to smaller outlets
  • Unspecified outlet – outlets selling medical products - but without other details given
  • Public and private outlets – undifferentiated mixture of licensed public and private outlets
  • Website(s) – medicines available through purchase on the web and delivery by post 
  • Airport
  • Seaport 
  • Manufacturer – licensed/authorised manufacturer 
  • Street vendors 
  • Unknown – unknown/not reported
  • Other – other type of source 
  • Not applicable – not applicable

Medicine classes

In addition to ATC classification, the following medicines classes are used: 

(not including primarily anti-tuberculosis medicines)




Antiviral others
(not including anti-HIV Antiretrovirals)





Contraceptive (includes condoms)

Abortive medicine


Erectile dysfunction medicine

Myometrial relaxant



Hormone replacement





(not including anti-inflammatory medicines)

Anti-inflammatory medicine

Respiratory diseases medicine

Medicine for allergy

registered/authorised hypnotic finished pharmaceutical products used either in normal practice, or that are diverted for use by drug addicts or for recreational use)

Anxiolytic (registered/authorised anxiolytic finished pharmaceutical products used either in normal practice, or that are diverted for use by drug addicts or for recreational use)

Antipsychotic (registered/authorised antipsychotic finished pharmaceutical products used either in normal practice, or that are diverted for use by drug addicts or for recreational use)






Alzheimer's medicine





Chemical laboratory reagents

Medical device for screening/diagnosis/monitoring

Medical devices for disease prevention

Medical device used for cure/mitigation/treatment

Veterinary medicines

Cardiovascular medicines

Herbal medicines
(do not include weight loss medicines 
includes 'Ayurvedic medicines' and 'Chinese traditional medicines')


(registered opioid derivatives finished pharmaceutical products used either in normal practice, or that are diverted for use by drug addicts or for recreational use)

Weight loss medicines
(finished pharmaceutical products, also includes herbal medicines for weight loss)

Psychoactive substances (substances with addictive effects, or that are used as recreational drugs but that are not registered medicines e.g. cocaine, NMDA, cannabis)


(other class of medicines/medical products)








There are important limitations on the use of these data and we have added warning statements to alert the users to these issues.