New Treaty to Curb Counterfeit Drugs

July 15, 2010
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

The Council of Europe (CoE) is hoping its Medicrime treaty can help curb the lucrative global trade in fake medicines.

The Council of Europe (CoE) is hoping its Medicrime treaty can help curb the lucrative global trade in fake medicines. The treaty is the first global convention against counterfeit pharmaceuticals and encourages cooperation among law enforcement agencies, customs, health professionals, and the judiciary.

“This treaty offers a comprehensive approach to tackling a crime that threatens public health and public healthcare systems,” said a spokesman, according to a news briefing from CoE. “Counterfeit medicines are more lucrative than heroin. It is a vile crime to fraudulently provide patients with products that don’t work.”

CoE has been long concerned about the absence of harmonized international legislation, nondeterrent sanctions, and the involvement of cross-border criminal organizations. Experts also believe the trend toward self-treatment has “flooded the Internet with medicines produced without any controls, tests or authorisation,” according to the news briefing.

Another significant worry is the growing incidence of counterfeit medicines in supply chains. The healthcare systems of developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the mass entry of counterfeits; however, CoE believes that fake anticoagulation drugs may already have been taken by patients in the UK. Adultered antibiotics, cancer treatments, antipsychotic drugs, cholesterol-lowering treatments, and erectile dysfunction may also be present in Europe.

According to CoE, counterfeiters are attracted by the potential for huge profits (i.e., economically motivated adulteration) coupled with low detection rates and comparative light penalties. The treaty will introduce tougher sanctions and help to ensure more effective pursuit of counterfeit manufacturers across international borders.

The Medicrime treaty will be opened for signatures later this year at a conference in Istanbul, which will be attended by representatives from more than 40 countries.