Efforts to Stop Counterfeit Medications

In today's world, the same counterfeit products that are being sold in India can be advertised and sold to patients in developed countries.  It is estimated that 50-90 percent of medicines purchased over the Internet are counterfeit.  The websites are extremely sophisticated and modeled on Western online pharmacies.  The consequences can be fatal for the unwitting patient.

Lilly is not alone in addressing this issue. In the past few days, you may have seen an article on counterfeit medicines. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today each wrote a piece discussing the growing problem of counterfeit medications in the medical supply chain.  We appreciate the attention the media is bringing to this important issue because they have crucial role to play in educating the public and helping to expose this vast criminal network and what it means for global health in the long-term.

Did you know that counterfeit medication are one of the most lucrative criminal activities today? The profits exceed that of selling heroin, with lower investment required, and practically non-existent legal penalties for committing the crime.  The result is that more and more criminals are producing and distributing fake medicines throughout the world. Unfortunately, criminals are making profit by pedaling counterfeits in the developing world where regulatory systems and oversight is the weakest.

A common misperception is that counterfeits and generics are the same thing. The counterfeiters can make significant profits from generics, and in some cases more profit if there is a higher volume of demand. To categorize them as such is unfair to the world's generic drug producers.  Legitimate products, either branded or generic, must go through stringent regulatory approval processes before going on the market. In most countries, both generic and branded drug makers are bound by Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) that are designed to ensure product potency, safety and efficacy.

Lilly remains committed to patient safety in the face of this growing problem.  Our company has initiated a broad range of actions to aggressively protect our patients against the exploitative actions of criminal counterfeiters.  This includes the addition of enhanced Anti-Counterfeiting technologies for Lilly products and packaging in our retail product portfolio, and changes in our distribution system.

We actively partner with government, non-government organizations, and trade associations to strengthen, enact, and enforce Anti-Counterfeiting laws, and to raise awareness among governments and with patients.  The private sector must stand ready to partner with the public sector in tackling this problem.  However, without more rigorous international cooperation to improve regulations, laws and penalties related to counterfeiting medicines and also enforce them, the consequences for worldwide patient safety will be serious.