The Peterson Group

Watchdog of Counterfeit and Illegal Drugs

The Struggles of Manufacturers to the Widespread of Counterfeit Medicines

In 2012, bevacizumab, a drug which is currently used to cure tumor has been reviewed to have components of chalk. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) immediately sent out warnings to hospitals and clinics of possible the possible taint. It was then found out that for many years, doctors has been prescribing the drug which contains either chalk or cornstarch. In Jakarta, Indonesia and Bangkok, Thailand, FDA even found out that there are a number of bevacizumab which has no effective ingredient at all.

Three years had passed and there is no exact improvement in fighting off the widespread of counterfeit medicines. The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines returned to Jakarta to review the status of medicine industry in the city. Although the hospitals and clinics have been more cautious of the supply of medicines coming in and out of their facilities, there are still instances which they cannot assure the distribution of these fraudulent medicines in drug stores and markets. The control may not already be in their hands but on the legal action taken by the manufacturers themselves.

Pfizer, Sanofi and other large companies are doing their own investigations on the deadly medicines. They reason out that other mediocre manufacturers may not have the proper tools to tag their own products let alone make their own move against counterfeiting. Technologies which have the capability to trace, scan and analyze a product are still costly which a lot of manufactures cannot procure. The end result may lead to total foreclosure because of the fall of business.

Large companies are lucky enough to have the means for a total and more focused analysis on the competitive counterfeit products. However, they face a different dilemma and conflict with the local government they are working with. The investigations may not be totally transparent since the public power itself has strict political agenda that may hinder the cause.

The following are the key factors that make the campaign against counterfeiting incongruous with the authorities:

1. Inadequate Legislation and enforcement

Albeit the pure cause and the high probability of crime, some nations have lax security system and inadequate, sometimes vague legislations regarding counterfeiting. Counterfeiters may sometimes have a low risk of punishment

2. Insufficient Penal Sanctions

Despite the best efforts of manufacturers to take into custody, perhaps put in life imprisonment, those who are involved in these fraudulent acts, the penalty system for counterfeiting may be too sloppy to be feared.

3. Lack of awareness among health professionals and consumers

Civilians and other individuals may not have any tools or proper education system to detect and determine counterfeited medicines.

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For those who are not too observant about things, chalk dust and flour seemed to be the same. With proper tools, counterfeiting experts can change the components of a legitimate medicine to chalk starch or paint particles with ease, sell it to a gray market or fairly distribute it on different pharmacies with loose security and inventory system. Advancement in technology doesn’t make it too hard to label and brand the fake medicines after the real ones. This global drug trade is thriving in Africa.

The markets in Africa are filled with counterfeited medicines. These medicines are placed side by side with counterfeited medicines. If you pick the wrong box, it can eventually lead to your death.

The outbreak of Malaria in this continent has been advantageous for counterfeiters to introduce their products to the market. When it was finally found out that the increase of mortality rate has been caused by some unknown substance in the medicines that were given to patients, dispensed by public hospitals, fake medicines have already spread far and wide in the region.

The discovery, last June, 2013 led to one of the largest seizures of phony medicines ever. The fakes which are enough to treat more than half the country's annual malaria cases, had they been genuine according to Wall Street Journal are part of a proliferation of bogus malaria drugs in Africa that threatens to undermine years of progress in tackling the disease.

According to reports released by The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, about 100, 000 deaths in Africa are linked to fraud drug products. The British think-tank, International Policy Network, on the other hand, estimates that globally, 700,000 deaths a year are caused by fake malaria and tuberculosis drug comparing the death toll to the equivalent of “four fully laden jumbo jets crashing every day.”

Many analysts blame the importers from Asia for the havoc it brought in Africa. China is known to have the practice of counterfeiting and many believe the distributors also come from the country. It is, in fact, not a secret that China, along with India, has a lot of records and complaints on the production of many counterfeit products. PRC also have the largest production base for both active and unfinished drugs around the world.

However, many cities are already being dragged in the fray. Jakarta, Indonesia and Hanoi, Vietnam to name a few are also included as they are also suspected to distribute their locally-produced fraud medicines.