counterfeit drugs


Lack of drug safety monitoring threatens global health progress | 

Flickr, by Rodrigo Senna

The push to expand access to life-saving drugs and vaccines in low-income countries is threatened by the lack of drug safety monitoring.

How so? Well, the standard approach to getting drugs out to the developing world has been for the pharmaceutical industry to first make a product it can sell to the rich world and, as costs go down over time, eventually distribute it to the poor. The problem with that approach is that the costs don’t always go down enough and many drugs or vaccines needed solely in poor communities simply don’t get developed.

It was this fundamental problem – which Bill Gates in the early days of his philanthropy identified as one of the world’s most deadly kinds of market failure – that helped launch the movement (and/or industry) we now call global health. Continue reading

Fake drug threat growing | 

Flickr, sparktography

Two new reports are focused on the growing threat from counterfeit drugs.

In this issue of Foreign Affairs, three experts examine the rapid increase in the fake drug trade:

Multiple studies estimate that up to 50 percent of medicine in circulation in regions of Africa and Southeast Asia today is fake. And in 2009 alone, more than 20 million counterfeit pills were seized in China and Southeast Asia.

And, as I reported earlier last month, this should be of concern to all of us in the United States because so many of our drugs (nearly half) and pharmaceutical ingredients (80 percent) are made overseas.

Similarly, Laurie Garrett at the Council on Foreign Relations makes specific recommendations aimed at beefing up the safety and reliability of global pharmaceutical supply:

The world is facing two immediate health crises concerning drugs and vaccines: affordable and reliable access to life-sparing medicines and the safety and reliability of those medicines. Regulation and distribution systems to ensure access and protect public safety, where they exist, are outdated.


Seattle global health expert issues call to arms in the war on fake drugs | 

Flickr, by Rodrigo Senna

Fake drugs are on the rise.

Did you know that 80 percent of all drug ingredients, and 40 percent of all finished pharmaceutical products, are made outside the U.S.?

Did you know a small, but increasing number of these drugs are fake?

What looks like a very boring academic and institutional report, entitled “Ensuring Safe Foods and Medical Products Through Stronger Regulatory Systems Abroad,” is in fact a call to arms. A Seattle man is a leading voice in sounding the alarm on the problem of counterfeit drugs.

Fake drugs are on the rise worldwide, including in the United States, and nearly a million people are estimated to die every year due to taking medications that are useless or worse.

The problem of fake or counterfeit medications in the developing world is massive, in some regions estimated to constitute perhaps half of all drugs sold, says the World Health Organization. Continue reading

Using science to battle fake drugs | 

Flickr, by Rodrigo Senna


I’ve written before about some of the Seattle folks playing a critical role in the battle against counterfeit medications and the potential for harm “fake drugs” can cause, especially in low-income countries.

It is a much bigger problem than most people realize and not at all simple to fix.

While some estimate that maybe one percent of the medications sold in the U.S. are fake or adulterated, experts say as many as one-third of all medications in the developing world could be counterfeits. Continue reading

Fighting Fake Drugs | 

Flickr, by Rodrigo Senna


One of the international community’s top priorities (Millennium Development Goal number eight) is to make sure people in developing countries have access to essential drugs and treatments.

Criminals have decided to help out.

Last week, Interpol coordinated police raids throughout East Africa — in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda — seizing 10 tons of counterfeit drugs and arresting some 80 people. The operation, dubbed Mamba III (in case it’s ever made into a movie, I guess), was done in cooperation with the World Health Organization’s International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT). Continue reading