Counterfeit medicines pose an enormous threat to patients around the world. Recent numbers indicate that the counterfeit drug market represents a $75 billion dollar per year industry, up 90% since 2005. In fact, according to some reports fake medicines could comprise as much as 15% of all medicines in circulation today. Anti-counterfeiting efforts face the daunting challenge of going up against sophisticated criminal networks in a rapidly expanding, illegal medicines market.
The growth of the counterfeit drug trade has real global health implications. Some of these fake medicines may have the wrong amount of the active ingredient, and others have even been known to contain toxic ingredients. When medicines contain the wrong amount of active ingredient, they can lead to multi-drug resistant diseases and can lessen the efficacy of safely produced medicines. The growth of online pharmacies, which frequently do not comply with laws and regulations, has propelled the problem of counterfeit medicines into developed and developing nations alike.
Supporting anti-counterfeiting efforts means protecting patients and securing supply chains. Legislation like the Drug Quality and Security Act represents an important step forward, but combating counterfeit medicines will require a coordinated effort on behalf of industry, government officials, health care providers, and consumers.