Health experts have warned that the growing menace of potentially lethal or harmful counterfeit medicines has to be contained otherwise there would be a global health crisis.
"There is a growing threat to patient safety in the developed and developing world," said Jo Harkness, of the International Alliance of Patients' Organizations. "Currently the low penalties for counterfeits are shocking. Countering supply chains is vital." The call was made at the sidelines of the World Health Organization's annual assembly.
Kustan Tinah of Indonesia's National Agency for Drug and Food Control said that in more than half the cases of counterfeit antibiotics, painkillers and other medicines detected in Indonesia, they had not found any active ingredient or if found there was very little of it.
The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA) said that last year there were 781 cases where counterfeit medicines had been seized. This was 40 percent more than what had been taken in 2004. "The source of counterfeit products seems to be largely from two countries, China and India. They are trying to address the problem because it poses a considerable danger to their own populations," said IFPMA Director General Harvey Bale. "While counterfeit CDs have been a high priority, frankly counterfeit medicines haven't."
He added that up to one to two percent of the drugs distributed were fake, "We've even seen criminal rings trading from illicit drugs to counterfeit medicines, because it's less risky," Bale commented.