Changes and Challenges in the International Counterfeit Landscape

Helen Winsor

Dirk Schaub, IP Crime Investigator at Germany Customs, joins Pharma IQ to discuss challenges and recent developments in anti-counterfeiting. To listen to the podcast now go to German Customs – Cracking Down on Pharma Counterfeiting.

Pharma IQ:
What are currently the main threats facing the industry at the moment and what action can the industry take to protect itself?

D Schaub: The risks are probably even in high-profit margins (i.e. more than drugs), when counterfeit pharmaceuticals appear and are brought in the legal circulation market. One of the main tasks of the German Customs Authorities is controlling the cross-border movement of goods and preventing the import of unlawful or illegal pharmaceuticals. Customs can stop every shipment, and can control and inspect all goods. In addition to this, we have what could be described as our own criminal police: the Customs Investigation Service - they have the same rights and obligations like police, but in addition, we can inspect any shipment with or without any suspicion. Not all other European Countries are provided with their own Customs criminal ‘police’ of this type.

Pharma IQ: Can pharmaceutical companies do anything to facilitate or work more closely with authorities and customs?

D Schaub: The co-operation with the pharmaceutical industry seems good and there is a clear level of trust. As soon as any unlawful pharmaceuticals are suspected, the customs authorities should always be informed immediately, as customs might already have collected information or be investigating regarding suspicion, but at least we can stop and inspect goods and probably investigate backwards. So whenever there is information available regarding illegal trafficking pharmaceuticals into the country, pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t hesitate to get in contact with German Customs.

Pharma IQ: Has the culture or focus internally changed at all as a result of the changes within the international counterfeit landscape?

D Schaub: Internet trade with counterfeit pharmaceutical products, for example lifestyle products, has risen extensively. Therefore the number of seized packages at Customs just rises and rises. Following this, the number of Customs Investigation cases (medium to severe crime level) has increased by more than 58% in the last year.

Pharma IQ: Have you changed the way you tackle counterfeiters?

D Schaub: We undertake considerable work with finance inquiries into internet crime nationwide and internationally to combat this field of crime. Of course we have to act within the legal frame, for example, the German Drug Law. Even German Drug Law has been adjusted. Since 2009, bringing counterfeit pharmaceuticals and even counterfeited active ingredients into Germany is liable to prosecution.

Pharma IQ: What do you see as being the highest threat areas, and the most likely successful preventative measures in the future?

D Schaub: All stakeholders should enforce communication and share information. Even in the section of illegal business with doping substances (Fitness Studios), it is not only professional-level counterfeit products that are distributed widely, i.e. steroids or Human Growth Hormone (which are very expensive) and which can lead to high crime potential. Public awareness campaigns should be expanded regarding the threat of illegal trafficking of pharmaceuticals, for example, trade via internet, and in doping.

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