Campaign Against Counterfeit Drugs Continues - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Campaign Against Counterfeit Drugs Continues

Stronger legal measures

Although, anticounterfeiting initiatives are of vital importance, there is also a need to make sure that appropriate laws are in place to deal with counterfeiters. In this regard, considerable hope has been placed in the Council of Europe’s MEDICRIME Convention, adopted on 8 Dec., 2010. The concept of the Convention was to establish a legal framework that would be truly global to deal with those trading in counterfeit medical products (11). One of the weaknesses at present is that while law enforcers in Europe can deal with counterfeiting operations in the region, they have difficulties in prosecuting those located beyond their jurisdictions. Furthermore, even if it were possible to apprehend some of these criminal groups, individuals are able to escape prosecution due to weaknesses and ambiguity in local laws (12). The MEDICRIME Convention has utilised a broad definition of counterfeit medical products, so that criminals cannot take advantage of existing differences in legal interpretation over terminology to evade prosecution. For example, in some countries, what is regarded as a counterfeit drug may only be termed a substandard product in another country, meaning that only limited action would be taken.

While some bodies, such as EFPIA, have praised the MEDICRIME Convention (13), others have expressed doubts regarding its effectiveness (12, 14). Although a number of countries have signed the Convention, they have not ratified it, particularly countries from outside Europe that are often suspected as sources of counterfeit products targeting the region (12, 14). One suggestion, by authors from the World Federation of Public Health Associations, International Pharmaceutical Federation and the International Council, which was also published in BMJ, was to have a global treaty to combat counterfeit medicines (15). The authors suggested that this initiative should follow the style of the World Health Organisation’s Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (16) to be effective. Until legal measures are globally effective, current initiatives to seize counterfeit products will undermine the ability to prosecute many of those behind illegal activities.


1. INTERPOL, “INTERPOL and pharmaceutical industry launch global initiative to combat fake medicines,” Press Release, 12 Mar., 2013., accessed 2 Apr., 2013.

2. Sanofi, “Combating drug counterfeiting: a global INTERPOL and pharmaceutical industry initiative,” Press Release, 12 Mar., 2013.

3. EFPIA, “INTERPOL and pharmaceutical industry join forces in new global initiative to protect patients from counterfeit medicines,” Press Release, 12 Mar., 2013.

4. P. Taylor, “Pangea V nets almost 4m illicit medicines,” Securing Industry, 4 Oct., 2012.

5. MHRA, “MHRA plays vital role in £6.5million drugs bust and stopping spam emails,” Press Release, 4 Oct., 2012., accessed 2 Apr., 2013.

6. BBC, “Thousands of illegal prescription drugs seized in Northern Ireland,” 4 Oct., 2012.

7. MHRA. Falsified Medical Products Strategy 2012-2015, MHRA, Mar., 2012.

8. Sanofi. Faux medicaments! Communiqué. (French)

9. Bayer. The German securPharm Initiative.

10. J Butschli. Label supplier says Germany’s new counterfeit drug ‘shield’ not sufficiently effective. Healthcare Packaging. 11 Dec., 2012.

11. S. Keitel, Generics and Biosimilars Initiative Journal, 1 (3-4) 138-141 (2012).

12. Bad medicine. The Economist, 12 Oct., 2012.

13. EFPIA, MEDICRIME Convention. Position Paper of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries & Associations, Position Paper, undated.

14. A. Attaran, Amir Attaran on tackling counterfeit medicines. BMJ Group Blogs, 6 Mar., 2013.

15. BBC, “Call for global crackdown on fake medicines,” 13 Nov., 2012.

16. WHO, “Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products opened for signature,” Press Release, Geneva, 10 Jan., 2013.


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