December 11, 2017

WHO Study / Dangerous Counterfeits

With its “Beware of Counterfeits” campaign Bayer is joining the fight against counterfeit medicines in close cooperation with national and international authorities.

One in ten medicines in developing countries is counterfeit or of substandard quality, according to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO). For the Global Surveillance and Monitoring System report (GSMS), published 28 November 2017, WHO experts evaluated global data from the past four years. They counted 1,500 cases of counterfeit, deficient or unauthorized medicines since 2013, with each case involving thousands of illegal products. The highest number of incidents came from Africa (42%), followed by the Americas and Europe (both 21%). Antimalarial drugs and antibiotics were the medicines most frequently counterfeited, but many contraceptives, vaccines and dietary medications were bogus as well. In addition to the immense health risk for patients who take fake drugs, counterfeit medicines cost the global healthcare system USD 30 billion per year.

And expensive brand medicines are not the only counterfeit material. WHO estimates that half of all counterfeits are copies of generic medicines – drugs for which patent protection has expired. The organization cites only the reported cases; most likely, the number of undeclared cases is considerably higher. In addition, WHO estimates that 169,000 children die of pneumonia each year because they receive counterfeit or deficient medicines. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, counterfeit medications also cause an additional 116,000 malaria deaths annually.

To reduce the number of deaths due to counterfeit medications, WHO established a global monitoring system for the medicines market in 2013. The organization trained 550 people in 141 countries specifically for this purpose. Now, in the first study of this kind in decades, drugs are included that have been deliberately falsified, do not meet quality standards, have not been approved or have not been adequately tested.

Source: WHO GSMS Report 2017