G8 takes up counterfeit drugs
With the European economic forecast looking a lot like today’s New Jersey weather forecast, the eight world leaders who gathered at the G8 summit in Camp David last week had many heady issues to discuss.
Among those topics was the pharmaceutical industry, or, more specifically, the counterfeit pharmaceutical industry.
The G8’s Camp David Declaration included a vow by the leaders to exchange information on illegal pharmacy sites and “share best practices on combating counterfeit medical products.”
The mention won praise from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which issued a statement over the weekend commending the G8 leaders for recognizing the “threat to global public health of counterfeiting activities around the world.”
In the statement, PhRMA President and CEO John Castellani said counterfeit drugs are a serious health and safety issue.
“Counterfeit medications are manufactured, marketed and distributed with the deliberate intent to deceive patients and healthcare providers as to the source or nature of the product,” he said. “As a result, these products threaten the health and safety of consumers around the world.”
Of course, the issue is also an economic one. The counterfeit drug provision was, after all, listed under the “Global Economy” heading, and included in a paragraph highlighting the importance of intellectual property rights to job creation and economic growth.
The Washington, D.C.-based Pharmaceutical Security Institute counted 1,986 incidents of counterfeiting, theft, or illegal diversion of pharmaceuticals in 2011. The group defines “illegal diversion” as an incident where legitimate pharmaceuticals intended for sale in one country are illegally sold in a different country.
The economic costs of the counterfeit industry are by their very nature hard to quantify, though estimates are in the billions. The most widely quoted figure is from the Center for Medicines in the Public Interest, which authored a 2005 report projecting the counterfeit drug market could exceed $75 billion in by 2010. Other estimates put the figure at between $35 billion and $40 billion.
For the record, while the vast majority of online pharmacies aren’t legitimate, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy does keep a listing of “verified” safe online pharmacies. It lists 30 websites.