Friday, January 9, 2009

Fake Drugs More Deadly than Terrorism?

Since 911, we are well familiar with the deadly effects of terrorism, but are you aware there is another danger lurking that has silently killed hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide?

I am speaking of counterfeit medications, which have been a growing problem in underdeveloped countries for years and are now showing a steep increase in developed countries as well.

According to The Observer, British intelligence has found that criminal gangs (mostly out of China) have shifted away from selling “lifestyle” drugs like Viagra and have switch to “life-saving” medications. These drugs have infiltrated the regular supply chain in Britain and are threatening the health of millions of their citizens.

In fact more the ₤3M of these fake “life-saving” medications for ailments such as heart disease and cancer were seized in the first 10 months of 2008. Some of these medications were found within the official healthcare supply chain. These included Zyprexa, 40,000 doses of Casodex, a hormone treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer, and Plavix, a blood thinner.

Graham Satchwell, the former head of Scotland Yard’s organized crime group believes a significant number of patients may have died already, but it has not been attributed to counterfeit drugs. “They may have less of the active ingredient, meaning people could die because they are not receiving their life-saving treatment. Even now, though, healthcare professionals never assume it is the drug. No one asks whether deaths are attributable to fake medicines,” said Satchwell.

Interpol recently revealed it is investigating reports that profits received from counterfeiting activities are being used to fund terrorist groups such as al-Qaida. And these profits can be huge – as much as ₤1M for the shipment that successfully penetrates into the normal supply chain.

These criminals prey on the most vulnerable: “The counterfeiters target the weakest members of our societies – the young, the sick, the economically disadvantaged, and it is our obligation to take action,” said Ronald Noble, Interpol’s secretary-general.

While the European commission is considering several anti-counterfeiting methods, most are tied to the packaging rather than the drug itself. History has shown that such deterrents such as holograms are only temporary solutions as they themselves are usually copied within a few months. What is needed is verification of the drug itself – such authentication would act as a firewall to make the legitimate supply chain immune from threats.

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