Counterfeit pharmaceuticals and the public health

The growing trend of counterfeit drugs endangers millions of people. And while counterfeit drugs are most prevalent in developing countries, recent reports indicate an influx of counterfeit drugs in the United States. The trend is spurred by lucrative opportunities, virtually anonymous distribution channels and price-driven consumer demand, explains Ronald W. Buzzeo, Chief Regulatory Officer at BuzzeoPDMA, a division of Dendrite International, Inc.


  • World Health Organisation researchers determined global sales of counterfeit drugs to be $32 billion in 2003 – 10 per cent of all medicines sold worldwide.
  • The Pharmaceutical Security Institute reported the value of seized, counterfeit and diverted drugs in the United States alone was almost $200 million in 2003.
  • In 2004, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) counterfeit drug investigations rose more than 150 per cent over the previous year.
  • In the fourth quarter of 2004, 63 per cent of the 17.4 million visits to all online drug stores were to sites that did not require prescriptions for consumer purchase.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy see the rise in counterfeit drugs as a serious health concern that undermines the legal drug distribution system and erodes consumer confidence in the industry. The FBI recently launched the Internet Pharmaceutical Fraud Initiative and is working closely with the DEA to combat and dismantle the responsible criminal enterprises.

    Buzzeo says reversing the counterfeit drug trend is critical to public safety. He advises Americans to be more wary about the drugs they take. At the same time, drug manufacturers should employ available technologies and work with the FDA on public education programmes.

    Source: Ronald W. Buzzeo, Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals and the Public Health, Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2005.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 11 October 2005
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