NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 16, 2006

Millions of people are exposed to a real health threat every day -- the danger of taking the wrong medication.  This spreading problem has nothing to do with patients mixing up their pills.  Rather, it's caused by the proliferation of counterfeit drug traffickers, who are profiting immensely from selling fake medicines, says Peter J. Pitts, director of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

To combat this threat, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires distributors to keep detailed records of the sources of the medications they dispense.  But that's a futile undertaking.  Drug counterfeiters have become so sophisticated, they can produce drugs and packaging that cannot be differentiated from the real thing without complex chemical analysis.  Paper "pedigrees" are next to useless.

With huge profits, counterfeiting is increasing at a phenomenal pace, says Pitts:

  • The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest estimates that counterfeit-drug commerce will grow 13 percent annually through 2010.
  • Counterfeit sales are increasing at nearly twice the rate of legitimate pharmaceutical sales.
  • In 2010, it's estimated that fake drugs will generate $75 billion in revenues - a 92 percent increase from 2005, and the risks of detection and prosecution are low.

Authorities are concerned:

  • The European Union recently released statistics on counterfeit-drug sales in Europe.
  • Canadian authorities have made some high-profile arrests, but overall, the results of enforcement have been marginal.

It's time to stop accusing the drug industry of crying wolf about counterfeit drugs. Policymakers must confront the serious business of ensuring that drugs entering our markets are legitimate and safe. It's an area where mistakes are dangerous to everyone's health, says Pitts.

Source: Peter Pitts, "Pharmaceutical fakery is health care terrorism," Baltimore Sun, August 15, 2006.


Browse more articles on Health Issues