19 May 2018

Pharmaceutical Counterfeiting: Hear from the Experts

Pharmaceutical companies carry a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. While patent protection encourages their work on innovation, applying for and then defending trademarks is equally important. If counterfeits are able to slip through the cracks, it can lead to serious damage for consumers—potentially even death.

David Lossignol, Global Head of Trademarks at Sandoz International GmbH (Germany), a subsidiary of the Novartis Group, says counterfeiting is an issue for all types of products that it sells, from generics to biosimilars and mature brands.

“The biggest and growing threat we face is the prominent availability of counterfeit medicines on the Internet—on rogue online pharmacies, but also on social media and commercial platforms,” he explains.

Mr. Lossignol says the company has noticed a growing issue with off-label use of certain products, such as Omnitrope (somatropin, a synthetic growth hormone sometimes used by the bodybuilding community); tramadol, a pain reliever; and alprazolam, a tranquillizer.

“This demand outside the legitimate supply chain creates an ideal environment for counterfeiters,” he says.

Citing a European Union Intellectual Property Office report, Mr. Lossignol says that counterfeit medicines cost the EU pharmaceutical industry €10.2 billion (US $12.4 billion) a year in lost sales. Further, pointing to reports from the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Customs Organization, he says that falsified medicines are on the rise.

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