In Singapore, 150 sweltered and shivered in a hospital ward in 2008. All of them were admitted with severe hypoglycaemia – a sharp drop in blood-sugar levels. Four of them died and seven suffered severe brain damage.
What did these poor people have in common?
They had all taken counterfeit copies of drugs purporting to treat erectile dysfunction but which instead contained a hefty dose of glyburide, used for treating diabetes.
More than 250,000 children died in 2019 from fake malaria drugs, counterfeit vaccines, and counterfeit copies of yellow fever and hepatitis pills.
The OECD, in May 2020 published a joint report, Trade in Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products, with an accompanying side project on the impact of COVID products being peddled to those desperate for help and falling prey to rogue counterfeiters.
The report concludes that the sale of fake pharmaceuticals is “enriching criminal groups and endangering health while draining away vital industry and tax revenues.” Several billions of dollars are spent and wasted on fake pharmaceuticals every year. But it’s not just the effect this is having on the genuine pharmaceutical company’s ability to help customers, but there are terrible dangers associated with the sale of fake drugs and pharmaceutical products.
At best, fake drugs do nothing and customers have wasted their money when they could have been purchasing something that could have helped them. In the worse case scenarios, fake pharmaceuticals can kill. Drugs are dangerous and there is a strict regulation on the industry for that very reason. Rogue traders can put toxic or poisonous substances into their fake drugs.
The WHO has long decried the issue, with 54 million fake pills being seized in 2009. A quote from their report illustrates the dangers of being duped by fake pharmaceuticals. Scarily, the WHO has found that 50% of drugs purchased online are fake and only one in 10 viagra pills are genuine and safe.
More than 1.5 million fake Xanax pills were sold in the UK in 2017, despite only 16 prescriptions being given.
96% of websites and traders selling pharmaceuticals online are counterfeiters. Most of their products won’t work, the rest will kill the unsuspecting user.
Fake medicine is murder and unfortunately, rougue traders are not above using Coronavirus to line their bank accounts with more blood soaked bills.
There has been a surge in fake covid medicines, as reported by Interpol in May, seizures of counterfeit and fake Covid-19 tests, facemasks and hand sanitizers have been reported by customs authorities such as the US Customs and Border Protection, and the World Customs Organization.
Pharmaceutical companies from the US, EU and Switzerland are the hardest hit by counterfeiting.
Pharmaceutical companies must act to protect their customers. We offer, not just solutions such as mass serialisation, track and trace programs, ensuring the entire supply chain is legitimate and hologram tagging, but we educate customers on how to spot counterfeit and fake pharmaceuticals. We also track down rogue traders online and using a range of legal methods, shut down their operations, remove their IP addresses, block them and protect innocent lives being lost.