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Numbers of counterfeit drugs, antibiotics and painkillers on the market soar

24 March 2020

Over 4 billion Euros ($4.33 billion) worth of counterfeit drugs are sold across the world it has been reported in a recent study by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Customs data for 2014-2016 was analysed in the study and showed that counterfeit antibiotics, lifestyle drugs and painkillers were the most common seizures. However, other medicines were also seized by customs officals such as:
  • counterfeit cancer treatment medication
  • diabetes treatment drugs
  • local anaesthetics
  • malaria treatment drugs
  • HIV treatment drugs
  • heart disease medication
The World Health Organisation, one of the sources consulted for this study, estimates that the presence of sub-standard and counterfeit anti-malarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa can add up to 116,000 deaths annually.
This counterfeit trade is facilitated by the growth in small package shipments by parcel post or letter packets, which are more difficult for customs officers to detect.
Between 2014-2016, 96% of all customs seizures of counterfeit pharmaceuticals were of postal or express courier deliveries.
India, Hong Kong and China are identified as the largest producers of counterfeit pharmaceuticals at global level, with Singapore and Hong Kong appearing as the most important transit points in the counterfeit pharmaceutical supply chain.
Companies and businesses most affected by counterfeiting and piracy are primarily the UK, US, France, Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
A copy of the OECD-EUIPO report titled Trade in Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products can be found in Publications on the ACG website

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