“Fight the Fakes” – A global campaign raises awareness about dangers of fake medicines
Fake medicines increasingly put patients and the general public at risk across the world. In order to raise awareness about the dangers of fake medicines, ten international health organizations have joined forces and established the global campaign „Fight the Fakes“. Amongst them are the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), which is also supported by Bayer, healthcare professionals, foundations and disease-specific organizations. On their website www.fightthefakes.org they inform about the negative impact that fake medicines have on people around the globe and give a voice to those who have been personally affected. Furthermore the website serves as a resource for organizations and individuals who want to support the campaign.
“Fake medicines are one of the biggest threats to global public health”, says Dr. Stephen Opuni, Chief Executive of the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority. “It’s a global problem and we all need to come on board in fighting together, and once we’re able to do that we are going to make some real strides globally in fighting counterfeit medicines.” It is reported that figures about sales of fake medicines rise to ten percent globally. In some areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America the number may increase up to 30 percent. On illegal Internet sites it is estimated that even one medicine in two purchased is fake. The partners believe that coordination among people involved in the manufacturing and distributing of medicines helps to tackle the threat. Organizations as well as private persons can join the campaign in order to ensure a broader education on the topic.
December 04, 2013
Source: Fight the Fakes www.fightthefakes.org
Interpol: 30 percent of drugs sold worldwide are counterfeit
According to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), as much as 30 percent of the drugs sold worldwide are counterfeit, causing health problems and even death for millions of people. The most common drugs that are counterfeited are antibiotics, medication against HIV/AIDS and cancer, as well as lifestyle drugs such as weight-loss pills or treatments against erectile dysfunction. Interpol reports that more than 200,000 people die each year from counterfeited antiallergic drugs alone.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 50 percent of the fake drugs are sold online. Interpol’s coordinator of the Medical Products Counterfeiting and Pharmaceutical Crime (MPCPC) unit, Aline Plançon, said at an Interpol press conference in Cartagena, Colombia, that the internet provides an ideal platform for criminal organizations. “We are talking about powerful mafia structures that are earning billions of dollars with this crime”, she explained. Plançon presented at Interpol’s 82nd General Assembly current information on Interpol’s activities in the fight against counterfeit drugs, such as the recent worldwide operation Pandora VI.
November 19, 2013
Sources: InSightCrime.org Counterfeit Drugs Kill 1 Mn People Annually: Interpol, El Tiempo Un millón de personas mueren al año por medicamentos falsos: Interpol
European Commission: Fakes are “too good to be true”
The European Commission (EC) has introduced its “EU Stop Fakes” campaign to German media on October 15 at the headquarters of the German Federal Customs Investigation Office (Zollkriminalamt) in Cologne, Germany. The “EU Stop Fakes” campaign aims to promote awareness among consumers and support close cooperation between the EC and national authorities. For consumers, the EC has published the brochure “Too Good To Be True” which provides information about the risks and dangers of purchasing counterfeit products such as fake drugs.
At the press conference, EC Vice President Antonio Tajani called for more cooperation in the fight against counterfeits: “Counterfeiting is a serious threat to our economies. In a context of economic crisis, we must defend our business and firmly fight against counterfeiting for a decent, moral and fair society. When European and national authorities work together, we become stronger.”
The information brochure can be downloaded from the EC website at http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/tajani/stop-fakes/index_en.htm
October 24, 2013
Source: European Commission www.ec.europa.eu
US Senate Committee passes bill to increase drug safety
The US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions has agreed on the “Drug Quality and Security Act”. The bill consists of two major changes in order to improve drug safety and reduce the risk of counterfeit drugs in the USA.
The legislation calls for a track-and-tracing system to prevent counterfeits from entering the supply chain. This system is to be implemented on a national scale and resolve the patchwork of current federal regulations. Currently, the USA has no tracking system for drugs, making it easy to introduce stolen or counterfeit drugs.
Furthermore, the Senate has agreed to tighten regulations for compounding pharmacies in an effort to prevent another public health crisis such as the 2012 meningitis outbreak due to tainted steroid injections. Originally, the “outsourcing facilities” were under surveillance of the FDA but were exempt from the full spectrum of regulations that apply to traditional pharmaceutical companies. The new bill removes this exemption. In future, the FDA will not only know which compounding pharmacies exist, but also which products they are making and receive adverse event reports on compounded drugs.
It is expected that this legislation will quickly pass through the full House and Senate.
October 10, 2013
Source: US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions
Current EU Customs report: Counterfeited drugs arrive mostly by mail
European customs have seized a total of 40 million counterfeited products worth nearly one billion Euros, according to a current report by the European Commission. Most of the illegal products were found in postal controls. About one fourth of the seized products were counterfeit drugs. The EU Commission believes that this is due to the rising number of orders made online. Not only lifestyle medications such as weight-loss pills or drugs against erectile dysfunction are counterfeited, but also pain killers, antidepressants and cancer drugs.
Most of the counterfeits originated from China (64 percent). For medications, China is the leading country from which counterfeited drugs come from, followed by India and Hong Kong. Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Anti-fraud and Audit said: “[The] report shows the intensity and importance of the work being done by Customs in this field. I will continue to push for even greater protection of intellectual property rights in Europe, through our work with international partners, the industry and Member States."
The EU commission reports that customs have seized about 75 million articles less than last year. However, with almost 90,000 reports recorded, the number of cases remained nearly the same.
September 27, 2013
Source: European Commission, www.europa.eu
Information Forum: Bayer HealthCare is engaged in the fight against counterfeit drugs
Consumers should be alert when buying medicines on the internet. According to the World Health Organization, one out of two medicines bought online is counterfeited. On September 11, Bayer HealthCare has hosted together with the Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists (ABDA) and Pfizer the 2nd Counterfeit Medicine Information Forum in Berlin. On this occasion, the company has introduced a short film regarding the Interpol operation “Pangea”.
“Pangea” is an initiative designed to combat illegal online pharmacies. The video shows “Pangea’s” success story, from its beginnings in 2008 with just ten participating countries to this year’s “PangeaVI” with over 100 countries taking part. During the recent “PangeaVI” operation, more than 9,000 illegal websites selling fake drugs were found and taken offline.
At the Information Forum, Richard Bergström, General Director of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Assocaiations (EFPIA) underlined the necessity of cross-border collaboration. “We must ensure that patients in Europe receive their medicines from safe sources on a sustained basis”, he explained. “To do that, we need cross-border systems and processes that effectively eliminate forgeries from the pharmaceutical supply chain and track down criminal forgers.” The video can be viewed and downloaded at http://vimeo.com/73928473.
September 11, 2013
Strike against illegal online pharmacies – more than 9,000 websites shut down
International prosecuting authorities from all over the world have united to fight against online trading with counterfeit drugs. Under the name “Pangea”, authorities cooperated for one week (18 to 25 June) to take a closer look at websites and postal packages. Interpol reports that there have been 58 arrests worldwide and that about 9.8 million potentially dangerous medications worth about 41 million US dollars have been seized. More than 9,000 websites linked to illicit online pharmacies were taken offline. The authorities also suspended payment facilities to illegal websites and disrupted a substantial number of spam messages.
“I am pleased that police, customs and national regulatory authorities continue to work closely together at both the international and national levels to combat this dangerous form of illicit trade, with the full support of our public and private sector partners across the globe,” says World Customs Organization (WCO) general secretary Kunio Mikuriya.
The US FDA reports that it has shut down some 1.677 illegal pharmacy websites. These websites were offering “Levitra Super Force”, amongst other things. This drug is a fake form of Levitra®, containing dapoxetine instead of vardenafil. The FDA recommends that users should verify their online pharmacy of choice by visiting the FDA’s BeSafeRx website.
“Pangea” is an operation initiated by Interpol and is performed annually. During one week, prosecuting authorities all over the world specifically target illegal trading with counterfeit drugs. This year, “Pangea” took place for the sixth time, with about 100 countries participating.
July 24, 2013
Sources: US FDA, Interpol
Google continues to permit ads for illegal online pharmacies
Google features an increasing amount of advertisements for illegal online pharmacies. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) has therefore criticized the popular search engine. Users need to pay extra attention when clicking on Google Ads or search engine results, especially if a pharmacy is offering drugs without prescription.
In 2011, the internet giant had to pay a fine of 500 million US dollars for placing ads for online pharmacies selling counterfeit drugs. Jim Wood, speaker of NAAG, now states towards the newspaper USA Today that after testing Google with typical queries, many websites known to sell counterfeit goods continue to appear in the top results of the search engine. The amount of suspicious-looking videos dealing with counterfeits has also increased on Google’s YouTube service.
Google has denied the accusations, claiming in a statement that “we take the safety of our users very seriously and we've explained to Attorney General Hood how we enforce policies to combat rogue online pharmacies and counterfeit drugs. In the last two years, we've removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies, and we routinely remove videos that are flagged for violating YouTube's Guidelines regarding dangerous or illegal content."
According to the NAAG, these measures do not go far enough. They warn users to be wary of Google search engine results and suspicious videos on YouTube.
June 30, 2013
Source: USAToday Direct Link: Google allows ads for illegal drugs, state AG says
Norway: “Fake Pharmacy” warns consumers of counterfeits
With the fake online pharmacy www.pharmacyforyou.no, Norwegian authorities have taken an unusual path to raise awareness on counterfeit drugs. The project is a cooperation between the Norwegian Medicines Agency LMV, the Norwegian pharmaceutical industry union LMI, and the Norwegian customs.
Pharmacyforyou is intended to imitate a typical online pharmacy and therefore aims at potential customers who obtain their medication online without prescription. However, instead of being able to purchase medication, each link on the website leads to a page with a warning note, explaining the dangers of counterfeited drugs. Furthermore, the page warns readers of purchasing drugs online, claiming “most internet pharmacies are illegal. How do you know your source can be trusted?”
May 08, 2013
Source: DAZ online
Looking out for counterfeit drug manufacturers – risk management is becoming increasingly important to pharmaceutical companies
The number of counterfeit drugs remains at an alarmingly high rate. According to the Pharmaceutical Security Institute , there is a constant rise in illegal reimports, theft and product piracy. It is thus of utmost importance for pharmaceutical companies to fight back by implementing effective risk management measures. For this reason, Bayer has established “Bayer HealthCare Global Anti-Counterfeiting Management”. Under the guidance of Marina Bloch, different departments such as analytics, legal affairs, and packaging technology collaborate to counter product counterfeiting. To support their investigative work, the Anti-Counterfeiting Management collaborates with Bayer’s Corporate Security. Michael Sorge, Head of Corporate Security, and his team are currently working on 20 cases. The company has a “zero tolerance” mentality, which is incorporated in internal guidelines. “Every perpetrator we find can expect a charge and damage suit,” Sorge points out.
Additionally, the company fosters close collaborations with national authorities. Beside a well-working network in the EU, Corporate Security has established a new partnership with Columbian investigators and a cooperation with US-American authorities is as good as certain. In a next step, Bayer strives to create collaborations both with Brazil and China.
Though Corporate Security works together with the police or state prosecutors, it remains a private organization and thus is restricted by law. “Otherwise, we would be jeopardizing our investigational success. And that is what matters – we must protect ourselves from financial damage, protect our intellectual property, and most importantly, protect our consumers’ health,” Sorge explains.
April 23, 2013
Source: bayer direkt 6/2012 www.psi-inc.org
Bayer cooperates with Interpol in the international war against counterfeit drugs
Together with Interpol, Bayer has started an initiative to protect patients even better against counterfeited medicines. The “Pharmaceutical Industry Initiative to Combat Crime” (PIICC), which also includes other pharmaceutical companies, will specifically target forgery rings.
The internationally active task force will thus track down and crush criminal organizations. To achieve this, specially trained Interpol teams will support manufacturers and local authorities with their investigations across borders. This includes establishing a large information database and performing joint operations. Additionally, Interpol seeks to raise awareness among the public regarding the dangers of counterfeited medicines with this initiative.
PIICC is currently supported by 28 pharmaceutical companies and will run for the next three years.
March 12, 2013
Sources: Bayer, Interpol Direct Link: INTERPOL and pharmaceutical industry launch global initiative to combat fake medicines
Report calls for global strategies to fight growing problem of counterfeit drugs
The Institute of Medicine demands developing global strategies to counter the problem of counterfeit drugs. In a recently published report, the Institute concludes that the problem of fake and substandard drugs is still rising on a global scale. Therefore, both national and international organizations need to improve standards and work transnationally to fight back.
According to the report, in 2011, counterfeited drugs were sold in at least 124 countries. The highest burden is seen in developing countries. However, the Institute heavily criticizes the lack of information, pointing out that the true magnitude of counterfeit drugs remains unknown.
Therefore, the Institute of Medicine recommends that governments should improve systems that focus on detecting substandard, falsified, and unregistered medicines, for example, by implementing a track-and-trace system that can keep tabs on the origin of drugs. The Institute also claims establishing international networks among investigators and the support of smaller pharmaceutical companies intending to upgrade to international standards.
The full report can be read online or purchased as a hard copy from the Institute of Medicine. February 15th, 2013 Source: Institute of Medicine