Combating Counterfeit Medicines Is a Global Effort

Combating Counterfeit Medicines Is a Global Effort

02.28.13 | By Scott LaGanga

With nearly 5,000 medicines in the pipeline, it's obvious America's biopharmaceutical sector is on the cusp of life-saving breakthroughs every day. While our nation's researchers and innovators deserve much applause for their efforts, we can't forget another important factor that plays a critical role in protecting public health: patient safety.

Recognizing the importance of the issue, today the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) and the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI), will host a briefing on the current global counterfeit problem "The Danger of False Profits: The Threat of Counterfeits to Public Health." Along with leading voices in industry and academia, I'm honored to speak at the event on behalf of the Partnership for Safe Medicines.

The current international counterfeit drug market is growing and increasingly poses a direct threat to patients in the United States. While Asia currently dominates the counterfeit market, commerce makes local problems global. For example, a teenager in Boston can make a purchase from a Canadian online source and subsequently receive medicines made in China, but shipped from Barbados.

But the common channels used to expose Americans to counterfeit drugs may come as a shock. Over the past 18 months, Americans have received fake medications through the following outlets:

  • Doctors' Offices: In total, the FDA has warned more than 370 doctors in 38 states that they may have purchased counterfeit medications for their patients' care.
  • Brick and Mortar Pharmacies: Black marketers have sold stolen and mishandled medication back into unscrupulous pharmacies. Last year, a specialty pharmacy was prosecuted for selling diverted HIV medication worth millions.
  • Fake Online Pharmacies: In 2012 alone, in the US there were five separate prosecutions for counterfeit medications sales via fake online pharmacies.

Without global cooperation, we cannot protect patient safety when it's so easy for criminals to take advantage of national boundaries. A truly global effort to educate patients is what is required to eradicate this global health risk. Our children, our families and our countries require us to battle the problem of counterfeits for their safety and well-being. It's an issue that industry, government, patients and stakeholders worldwide need to continue to address together.

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