Threat of counterfeit drugs: risk in the network

With the increasing Internet shipping increases the risk of becoming a victim of counterfeit medicines. 

Ampoules for cancer patients with modified content, pills without sufficient active ingredient or contaminated powder: what is a lucrative business for criminals, is a tremendous health risk for consumers and patients.

Trade in illegal drugs is a growing problem according to the pharmacist. Stretched and faked all that promises profit, will complain experts. So lifestyle medications such as slimming, hair growth or sexual enhancer, but also high-priced drugs against cancer, heart disease, hepatitis and diabetes.

An international pharmacist Congress which started on Tuesday with 3000 participants from 100 countries are involved in the counterfeiting.

Main gateway is the Internet shipping, cross-border global works for counterfeit medicines.

“Therefore the fight against counterfeit medicines is an international task”, says Friedemann Schmidt, President of the host Confederation of German pharmacists. “The problem is that the fakes are getting better and are more difficult to detect.” Some counterfeits contain active ingredient to little or no, then the disease remains entirely or inadequately treated. Other preparation containing harmful substances. One must distinguish between the legal distribution chain with pharmaceutical wholesale and pharmacies on the one hand, and the illegal sellers of dubious Internet sources on the other hand, thinks Professor Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz, expert in pharmaceutical chemistry. He describes “Should, for example, fake medicines for treating cancer by a pharmacy to a clinic be delivered, containing actually no active ingredient, that would of course be a disaster”, from a scientific perspective. “The cancer could develop further. In the United States things are happening already.”

As a result of counterfeit heparin also at least ten people – it should prevent some post-operative thrombosis or embolism – were died, reported Schubert-Zsilavecz in the United States. In Germany, no case in which a patient had taken serious damage by means of a fake from the legal distribution chain is not known on him.

The Frankfurt expert advises therefore: “the patient should rely on the tried and tested structures: the doctor, the pharmacist gives.” Risk becoming victims of criminal and to suffer health damage was, however, “huge”, when is previewed in the net on your own.

Abda President Schmidt said however: “We are seeing that more and more attempts to introduce counterfeit medicines into the legal distribution chain”.

So, some fakes of the stomach using omeprazole had succeeded in recent years in wholesale and pharmacies.

And again the Customs knocking on counterfeit medicines. “Taking these drugs can mean a danger to life and limb”, warns the Federal Criminal Police Office. Only a few days ago, about 3.5 million tablets from India in North Rhine-Westphalia were been seized fake viagra and dangerous sleeping pills.

For many, there are supposed discretion and price advantages in the Internet, but apparently important selling points. Anonymity on the net, hard clear supply routes and extended distribution chains make it easier to craft the counterfeiters.

“We see with concern that counterfeit medicines on the basis of the price structures in Europe have become a lucrative business for criminal organizations,” says Professor Karl Broich, President of the Federal Institute for drugs and medical devices. “We must make secure distribution channels and medicinal packaging, to make counterfeiting more difficult.”

Some step are done: who wants to order a product online, can the register Dimdi ( check whether the provider is reputable and approved for Internet trading. All EU countries maintain such lists.

Also, Abda boss Schmidt securPharm refers to the project: all medication packages will receive a tamper-proof bar-code. “If this is implemented, we can track each individual medicinal package via a unique identification code of the production up to the submission.”