NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 29, 2005

Due to insufficient cross-border cooperation, counterfeit Viagra, antibiotics and other drugs in Europe are on the rise and are beginning to undermine patients' confidence in public health care, says Fox News.

Counterfeit medicines often are packaged like the genuine product and are hard to detect. Lifestyle drugs and essential medicines are particularly popular with counterfeiters, but there's an increase in the field of contact lenses and materials like surgical mesh.

Since there is no recognized central reference point in Europe entrusted with surveillance, trend analysis and policy recommendations regarding counterfeit medicines, many counterfeiters take advantage of this lapse in international cooperation, says Fox News.

  • Counterfeit medicines make up approximately 10 percent of the European pharmaceutical market -- up from zero 10 years ago -- and often are supplied by international criminal rings.
  • In Russia, some 20 percent of all drugs distributed are fake, while in Mexico it is 40 percent and in Nigeria as much as 80 percent.
  • Experts warn that purchasing health products over the Internet poses a major health risk since many of those drugs have not been approved by a competent health authority.
  • A study by the U.S. General Accounting Office in 2004 found that four out of 21 medicines ordered from Web sites outside the United States or Canada were fake.

Law enforcement officers, doctors and pharmaceutical experts from Europe and the United States are calling for tighter criminal legislation, better public awareness campaigns and a central point for collecting information on fake drugs, says Fox News.

Source: Associated Press, "Counterfeit Drugs Deemed Threat in Europe," Fox News, September 22, 2005.

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