Solutions Address Global Drug Counterfeiting Epidemic
Phony internet pharmacies and other illegitimate outlets are driving the massive counterfeit medicine market to consumers worldwide, according to a recent report released today by Cambridge Consultants, a design and development firm with offices in Cambridge, Mass., and U.K. Contributing to its findings on the serious issues relating to counterfeit medicine and the diversion of legitimate products, the leading technology product design and development firm conducted in-depth interviews with leaders from pharmaceutical and biotech businesses as well as technology developers and industry bodies. As part of the report, Cambridge Consultants identified the urgent need for more consumer education along with new and improved regulatory standards to address this growing public health threat associated with counterfeit medicine. In addition, the report included recommendations for solutions that businesses can use to address the global drug counterfeiting epidemic.
"Although there has been some debate around the size of the worldwide counterfeit medicine market that has been estimated at $75 billion and upward, one cannot dispute that the unregulated growth of internet pharmacies will only contribute to this problem," said Rainuka Gupta, group manager of Medical Technologies at Cambridge Consultants. "Our research concluded that this presents both a dual threat to consumers and the industry alike. Easier access to cheaper drugs has exposed consumers to dangerous mixes of fake drugs and placebos. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies risk losing credibility and regulatory bodies risk losing control with the spread of these counterfeit medicines. As an industry, we need to better educate consumers on the threats associated with fake drugs, but we also must work together to coordinate and implement technologies that can detect and deter counterfeiters."
Already a global problem, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia where the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that about 50 percent of medicines could be fake, counterfeit drugs have also been flooding the US market. In 2009, the US Customs and Border Protection Agency stated that the value of seizures of counterfeit pharmaceuticals had increased by 500 percent over the previous 3 years. Despite increased efforts to stop the flow of counterfeit medicine, the growth of internet pharmacies has exacerbated the issue and put consumers at further risk. According to LegitScript, which monitors web sites that facilitate the sale of prescription drugs, approximately 97 percent of the nearly 50,000 pharmacy websites in its database do not meet their standards for being verified as a legitimate pharmacy (licensed pharmacy, appropriate registrations, requiring a valid prescription, etc).
"As an advocacy organization, we were pleased to participate in this research and we thank Cambridge Consultants for bringing attention to the growing issues around the counterfeit medicine market," said Andrew Emmett, managing director for Science & Regulatory Affairs for Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). "While there have been recent improvements in enforcements and regulations, there continues to be a need for a comprehensive private-public response to criminal counterfeiting focusing on education, legislation, enforcement, investigation and international collaboration."
Cambridge Consultants organized a panel on the topic during the 2010 BIO International Convention earlier this year, which featured industry leaders from Amgen, Genzyme and BIO to discuss measures to address counterfeit medicine. Currently, there are three different types of technologies that can be deployed (anti-tamper packaging, serialization and authentication) to fight against counterfeit pharmaceuticals. However, due to the complex, global nature of counterfeiting and diversion carried out by organized criminals, the panel and research participants all agreed that collaboration among different stakeholders, including manufacturers, supply chain and law enforcement, is critical to address the problem.
Against the backdrop of a need for wider education concerning the dangers behind buying drugs from internet pharmacies, the research by Cambridge Consultants highlighted the need for today’s technologies to tie into business processes to form an integrated solution that continuously evolves, especially considering that counterfeiters have demonstrated that they can quickly adjust and respond to any one-off approaches. A key complexity of tackling anti-counterfeit and product diversion is that it needs to be addressed globally at a system level, otherwise criminals will simply move to less well protected markets. As a result, the report states that this requires everything from coordination of customs and law enforcement, through the adoption of legislation along with public education campaigns. In addition, the report also highlights how companies can take concrete steps to address threats to their businesses and their customers based on the product-specific risks.
The report can be accessed at: http://www.cambridgeconsultants.com/fm_authentication.html
Date: October 28, 2010
Source: Cambridge Consultants