Drug headache

Pfizer and other multinational corporations are fighting a rising tide of fake drugs of which, increasingly, China is the source. Counterfeit products are eating into their sales in the mainland's growing consumer market, and even find their way into major Western markets, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • The World Health Organisation estimates that between 6 and 10 per cent of medicine on the world market is counterfeit.
  • As much as $35 billion in fake drugs may reach the market each year.

    Increasingly, fake drugs are making their way into the United States, says the Journal:
  • In 2003, knock-off versions of Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering-drug Lipitor manufactured in Costa Rica were found in U.S. stores.
  • The Food and Drug Administration investigated 58 cases of drug counterfeiting in 2004, up from four cases in 1998, according to an agency report.
  • The cases involve "hundreds of thousands of fake dosage units," the report's authors said.

    A decade ago, fakes were mostly poor-quality pills cooked up by amateurs in basement labs. Some barely resembled the originals, others had no active ingredients – or too much. Today some cutting-edge counterfeiters can make nearly perfect pills with the same active ingredients as the originals. They manage their supply-chain and distribution networks like professionals, because in many cases they are or have been professionals.

    Nowhere have counterfeiters grown more sophisticated than in China, where the manufacture of fake goods from computers to cars has taken off, says the Journal.

    Source: Nicholas Zamiska and Heather Won Tesoriero, Drug Headache: As Pfizer Battles Fakes in China, Nation's Police Are Uneasy Allies, Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2006.

    For text (subscription required): http://online.wsj.com/article/SB113807065529554343-search.html

    For more on Health: http://www.ncpa.org/iss/hea/

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 07 February 2006
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