UN Drugs Agency Warns Online Counterfeiters Growing in Number

Niamh Madigan

Social media and the internet are increasingly being used as a means to sell illegal and counterfeit drugs, a UN drugs agency has warned.  

Internet offers of prescription ‘lifestyle’ drugs at a lower price which can be delivered to the patient without causing embarrassment are luring the young and vulnerable. More worryingly, a month ago, the industry was alarmed when fake batches of the cancer drug Avastin came onto the US market increasing fears about drug safety.

A recent report by MarkMonitor estimated that online counterfeit sales cost businesses $135 billion (£87 billion) in revenue in 2011.

The organisation also notes  that online counterfeiters seem to be growing in number and developing new ways of fabricating products or conning consumers into believing they are selling legitimate goods even if no product exist whatsoever.

Protecting the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Kerstin Schrade-Butscher, Intelligence Analyst, Global Security EMEA, Pfizer told Pharma IQ, “to successfully stem the flow of counterfeit medicines, you must attack both supply and demand.”

“On the supply side, Pharma companies should actively monitor their supply chains, including the pharmacies that dispense their medicines, to detect the presence of counterfeits. On the demand side, we must continue efforts to educate patients by raising awareness to the threat that counterfeit medicines pose to their health and safety,” Kerstin explained.

In a positive move, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) recently carried out successful tests, which established that using a two-dimensional data matrix could be effective as an anti-counterfeit measure for the pharmaceutical industry.
Some 25 pharmacies in Stockholm, Sweden and 14 manufacturers participated in the project which involved the scanning and verification of 100,000 packs. Pharmaceutical distributors Tamro and KD Pharma and the Swedish pharmaceutical manufacturer's organisational, LIF, also supported the project.

“The pharmaceutical industry and the legitimate supply chain are highly regulated; as long as you source your medicines  from a reputable pharmacy, the risk of getting a counterfeit product is low, argues Sébastien Mauel, Head of Product Security at Ares Trading SA, an affiliate of Merck Serono SA.”

“This risk becomes much higher in developing countries where the distribution system is less secure, and also when you purchase medicines from uncontrolled sources, such as certain online pharmacies,” he told Pharma IQ

5 Ways to Combat Counterfeit Sellers Online

MarkMonitor suggest  ways in which retailers can combat counterfeit sellers:

• Search the web on a regular basis: just ten online marketplaces account for 80 per cent of all marketplace traffic.
• Monitor advertisements and promotions: Brands should adopt  techniques such as scanning paid search ads that come up when search terms relevant to their products are typed in.
• Track social media sites for links related to their brands
• Look out for unauthorised use of brand names and terms in domain names
• Become a "difficult target”: Report any counterfeit goods being sold on marketplaces to managers and search engines.

Through collaboration between internet service providers, the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition and the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, organisations across the planet can help to clamp down on the counterfeiters.
Written by Niamh Madigan
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