Fighting Counterfeit Medicines

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Ensuring safe and effective medicines is a critical priority for us at Lilly.  You may have seen recent reports of counterfeit medicines, including those featured in today's WSJ.  We wanted to expand the discussion with a guest blog from our own Bill Reid.  Bill is Senior Director of Global Anti-Counterfeiting here at Lilly.

What ranks among the biggest concerns for an international pharmaceutical company like Lilly? Protecting the public from a $75 billion counterfeit drug industry.  In every part of the world, including the United States, patients are unknowingly encountering counterfeits that look just like actual medicines, from the appearance of the packages to the size and color of the pills.  There are dangerous impostors that may contain inactive and useless ingredients - or even toxic substances, such as arsenic.  In every case, counterfeits are unreliable; in some cases, they can cause harm to patients, including death.

Counterfeit medicines pose a real and growing threat to patient safety and worldwide public health.  Pharmaceutical counterfeiting crosses geographic boundaries and affects patients suffering from a variety of diseases.  Medicines commonly involved in counterfeiting include those used for oncology, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction, and mental health, providing proper treatment of these conditions.

Criminals are drawn to pharmaceutical counterfeiting by the prospects of high profits and low risks, as offenders are rarely prosecuted.  Because of its unregulated environment, full anonymity, and access to patients, the Internet is a hot spot for counterfeiters.  Criminal organizations dupe customers into buying counterfeit medicines through fake online "pharmacies," which use images of trademarked or branded pharmaceutical products.  An overwhelming number of illegitimate fake online pharmacies, portray themselves as Canadian pharmacies, but actually have no legitimate pharmaceutical business in Canada. Today's story in The Wall Street Journal illustrates the dangers of online pharmacies.

Lilly is actively engaged in efforts to combat counterfeiting, and we partner with governments and others to protect the health and safety of our patients.  Lilly is a founding member and steering group participant of the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, a broad coalition of stakeholders who have an interest in protecting patient safety and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies.  In Europe, Lilly is active in the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines to further patient education about the dangers of counterfeit medicines. 

Currently, we are actively supporting theOnline Pharmacy Safety Act (H.R. 4095), which was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR). The bill is a House version of S. 2002, which was introduced in December 2011 by Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Sessions (R-AL), Schumer (D-NY), and Cornyn (R-TX). The Online Pharmacy Safety Act updates and enhances U.S. law to improve the safety of internet pharmacies, protecting patients from the growing number of illegitimate and unsafe online drug sellers. The bill would protect U.S. consumers by helping to shed light on safe and law-abiding online pharmacies.