While pharmaceutical companies suffer greatly from the counterfeit drugs trade, it is important to remember that, ultimately, it is patients who suffer the most. Dean Hart explains.
Reports of counterfeit and illegally diverted pharmaceuticals continue to escalate as global economic woes press patients to look for cheaper medications. In October, anti-counterfeiting law enforcement initiatives co-ordinated by Interpol led to the shutdown of 290 websites, seizure of 11,000 packages and confiscation of more than one million counterfeit tablets and capsules, including antibiotics, steroids, anticancer, anti-depression, anti-epileptic and diet medications.
This most recent effort, entitled, ‘Operation Pangea III’ expanded on last year’s effort, in which 24 countries co-operated to seize 167,000 pills. While some of the increase in confiscated counterfeits could be attributed to a greater number of participating countries and an improvement in detection tactics, it is more than a little daunting and certainly hints strongly at a fast-growing problem.
More broadly, the World Health Organization has estimated that between 8 and 10 percent of the world pharmaceutical market is made up of counterfeit drugs. In some cases in Asia, Africa and Latin America, counterfeit drugs amount to up to 30 percent of the market. The entire counterfeit drug market is estimated at over $75 billion.