From fake Viagra to fake aspirin - Are counterfeiters changing tactics?


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Value Based Assessment
The seizure of 1.2 million doses of counterfeit aspirin by French customs officers (the largest haul of its kind in Europe) is a worrying sign that counterfeiters may be switching their tactics[1].

Counterfeit medicines reaching the legitimate supply chain in the UK is rare with only 10 cases in the past 10 years[2].  In the developing world, where there are fewer controls, counterfeiters often target high volume medicines such as antimalarials, vaccines and pain killers.  In some countries between a third and a half of all available medicines may be counterfeit. However, in the developed world, counterfeiters originally concentrated on “lifestyle drugs” like Viagra before moving on to lifesaving prescription medicines such as cancer and heart medicines.

This latest seizure suggests that counterfeiters are changing their tactics again, just as Europe tightens controls on branded prescription medicines.  The Falsified Medicines Directive 2011/62/EU brings in tighter controls on the distribution of medicines across Europe including authenticating branded medicines at the point of dispensing.  However, the authentication may not apply to cheaper generic medicines because they are not thought to be so attractive to counterfeiters.

David Pruce, Director of PruceConsulting, and a leading campaigner against counterfeit medicines, said “Counterfeiters are quick to exploit any loopholes and to change their tactics to make the most of opportunities.  We saw this when they switched to offering fake Tamiflu over the internet during the swine flu epidemic.[3] They must not be allowed to flood the market with dangerous fake medicines as they have in much of the developing world.” 

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