Counterfeit medication is a growing problem that is likely to worsen as global economic problems deepen. The consequences for patients of consuming poor-quality medicine can be life-threatening. 2020 counterfeited medications were the seventh most commonly seized counterfeit product, an increase from tenth place in 2019.
Counterfeit medication is a growing problem that is likely to worsen as global economic problems deepen. The consequences for patients of consuming poor-quality medicine can be life-threatening. In the UK, a BBC documentary uncovered evidence of fake medicine entering the National Health Service (NHS) supply chain. Analysis of the drugs revealed far less active ingredients than the genuine medicine. Footage was also obtained of the fake drugs being made in non-sterile conditions in South America with unsafe production processes such as the use of boric acid (an insecticide). In 2021, during the height of the global pandemic, the Chinese government uncovered a plan to smuggle 58,000 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines to an undisclosed overseas location. The scale of the problem is vast, as shown by a global anti-counterfeiting operation carried out in 2020, known as Operation Shield, which seized 25 million units of counterfeit pharmaceuticals with a total value of 73 million euros.
The impacts of counterfeit medicines on different levels
Damage to the health of patients or failure to treat their medical needs sufficiently.
Loss of sales and damage to the reputation of the pharmaceutical company.
Costs and lost revenues to governments and economies.
Costs of treating patients who have suffered adverse health consequences as a result of consuming counterfeit medicines.
Environmental pollution from dirty practices by unregulated criminal activity involving potentially toxic chemicals.
Social costs in terms of an increase in organized crime and job losses, which are estimated at more than 80 000 jobs in the EU pharmaceuticals sector and other sectors that sell goods and services to it.