The Partnership for Safe Medicines
Weekly Update March 1, 2010
In This Issue
Top News
World News
Quick Links
More About Us
Join Our Mailing List
Follow us on Twitter
European Counterfeit Drug Market Worth more than $14 Billion

At the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM), we've long cautioned consumers about the dangers of counterfeit drugs-a growing issue affecting all corners of the globe.

Now, the Pfizer-commissioned study, "Cracking Counterfeit Europe," has estimated that the counterfeit medicines market in Europe is worth more than $14 billion.

The investigation, which covered 14 European countries, comes weeks after the vice president of the European Commission announced that 34 million illicit tablets had been seized on European borders in a mere two months. This follows a seven-fold increase in the quantity of illicit medicines seized at EU borders over two years.

Pfizer's new research indicated that 21 percent of those surveyed admitted to buying prescription-only medicines from illicit sources, suggesting that "millions are turning to the internet to buy medicines that should be prescribed by a healthcare professional." Not surprising, however, were the reasons why: to save time and money.

PSM board member Bryan Liang, PhD, MD, JD said the study was yet another wake-up call to the gravity of the counterfeit drug problem, particularly on the Web.

"It's impossible to ignore the growing trends in the counterfeit drug arena, especially where the Internet is concerned," said Liang. "It's imperative that we take steps to limit the sale and distribution of illicit medicines. That includes mandatory accreditation of online pharmacies through a verification program like VIPPS, and new legislation that creates substantive penalties for anyone who has a hand in the manufacturing, sale or distribution of counterfeit drugs."

Pfizer Medical Director Dr. David Gillen urged the need for greater public awareness and education on counterfeit drugs and online drug purchasing saying, "People are not only unaware of the very real dangers of counterfeit medicines, but also that they're fueling an illegal and harmful criminal market."

Of course, education and public awareness about counterfeit drugs is the cornerstone of PSM. But we can't do it alone. We'd like for you to add your voices to the effort.

You can do so by:

  • Posting the PSM's whitepapers, fact sheets and blog posts to your social networks to let others know of this public health issue
  • Joining the conversation about counterfeit drugs on PSM's Facebook and Twitter pages
  • Talking to your employer or association about becoming a member of PSM, and participating in or sponsoring a PSM event
  • Writing a letter to your elected officials calling for measures to protect Americans from counterfeit drugs

We encourage you to learn more about Pfizer's European study, and take a look at our Safe Savings handout to learn how you can save money on safe, legitimate prescription drugs. We also encourage you to sign up for the Safe Medicines email alert system, which will notify any subscriber when a government warning on counterfeits is released.

When it comes to health, it's critical that we are aware of the dangers of counterfeit drugs. As the last barriers to harm, PSM encourages patients to stay informed to protect their loved ones and themselves against the criminal elements who sell these fakes.

Top News


UK: Study shows Alarming Trend Toward Buying Drugs on the Internet


A Cracking Counterfeit Europe report surveyed the general public and doctors across 14 European countries. The report revealed that 15% of UK adults surveyed admitted buying prescription drugs from the internet rather than visiting their doctor. The British Medical Association (BMA) warned this could lead to medical harm. Tests at a laboratory in Sandwich revealed that some counterfeit drugs had rat poison, boric acid and lead paint in them. ("Kent Laboratory Finds Growing Counterfeit Drugs Market," BBC, February 17, 2010; Story here)

World News


United States: Google's Restrictions for Online Pharmacies go into Effect


Beginning this month, Google will only accept ads from online pharmacies in the USA that have accreditation under the National Association Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). US consumer advocacy group the Partnership for Safe Medicines welcomed Google's move, but said it also wants additional measures put in place, such as legislation to prohibit financial transactions for drug sales of unlicensed online pharmacies and the creation of substantive criminal penalties for any party, including Web sites and search engines, which engage in the trade in counterfeit medicines. ("Google Toughens up on Online Pharmacies," Securing Pharma, February 17, 2010; Story here)



Syria: Counterfeit Drugs Common Throughout the Middle East


A recent counterfeit drug bust in Syria, which included the seizure of equipment used to make and package fake drugs, stopped one ring's lucrative trade of counterfeits to Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran and Egypt, according to pharmaceutical-company managers. Authorities claim that the ring busted in Syria was the main one operating in that country. A pharmaceutical-company manager said it was the main network for Egypt as well, but others are still operating in other Middle-Eastern countries. ("No Cure For Fake Drugs," Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2010; Story here)



Kenya: Counterfeits Dominate Market for Malaria Drugs


Initial results of a study carried out in 10 African countries indicate that in some cases, up to 40 percent of the drugs could be substandard. The results released by the World Health Organization on Monday showed that most of the medicines in Uganda failed quality standards tests. Results from the other countries surveyed, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania, have not been released. ("Kenyans Yet to Know if Malaria Drugs are Safe," The Nation, February 10, 2010; Story here)

About the Partnership for Safe Medicines
The Partnership for Safe Medicines is a group of organizations and individuals that have policies, procedures, or programs to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband medicines. For more information, please visit