Friday, October 9, 2009

Time: Call To Establish International Convention on Counterfeit Drugs

Peter Gumbel in the October 8th issue of Time magazine reported on the worldwide surge of counterfeit drugs.

In this excellent article, Mr. Gumbel notes:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) said "more than 50 percent of drugs sold online have either been falsified or altered in some way. And Internet sales are just the tip of a much bigger problem."

  • Falsified medicines are especially prevalent in developing countries; the WHO estimates that up to 30% of drugs sold in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America are fake, including ones used to fight diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

  • The issue has long been a preoccupation of major pharmaceutical companies, which lose as much as $75 billion in business every year to counterfeit-drug makers, according to WHO estimates.

  • The Pharmaceutical Security Industry tracked more than 1,800 incidents of drug-counterfeiting around the world last year, 10 times the number when it first started monitoring seven years ago. Getting governments and law enforcers around the world to work more effectively to counter the problem has proved hard.

  • The Presidents of two African countries, Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin and Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, will be among a cluster of international dignitaries and industry experts who will make an international call for action against counterfeit drugs.

  • There is a upcoming meeting in Benin which is “a worldwide campaign aimed at raising awareness of the problem and persuading governments to impose tougher penalties and improve routine testing of medications. The larger goal is to establish an international convention on counterfeit drugs as early as next year."

  • When Pfizer recalled 120,000 packs of its cholesterol drug Lipitor in Britain in 2005 after it discovered a counterfeit version, it found that 60% of all the returned packs were fakes. Jacques Franquet, who heads security operations for the French drugmaker Sanofi Aventis, says his teams routinely find fake versions of about 15 of the company's drugs worldwide.

  • Marc Gentilini, a French medical professor and expert on tropical diseases says the problem is urgent. The lack of clear international rules governing counterfeit medicines, he says, means that trafficking them is currently "less risky and more lucrative than trafficking narcotics."

  • Certainly, there's now an abundance of evidence of brazen criminal activity. More than 80 babies in Nigeria died earlier this year from teething medicine that contained the toxic coolant diethylene glycol. In July, authorities in Bangladesh seized supplies of a poisonous acetaminophen syrup that had killed 24 children. In Argentina, several women died in 2004 after receiving injections of a falsified iron-based medicine to treat anemia. And in 2006 more than 100 people in Panama died after taking medicines made with fake glycerin. Many times, the counterfeit drugs just don't work. This leads to a large number of preventable deaths, particularly in the developing world.

To view the entire story, visit the following link:,8599,1929147,00.html

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