A counterfeit drug, by definition, is one that has been made by someone other than the genuine manufacturer of the item. It is done by either copying the formulation of the drug or imitating it without permission to do so. Sometimes the purpose is to defraud a customer, while others simply see their actions as a generic form of a brand name drug that many markets already allow. The only problem is that many countries don’t actually follow this definition.
Statistics on Counterfeit Drugs
1. An estimated 10%–30% of medicines sold in developing countries are counterfeit.
2. The percentage of counterfeit drugs that are sold in the industrialized nations: 1%.
3. The value of the counterfeit drug market annually: $200 billion.
4. A 10 day crackdown against counterfeit drugs coordinated by Interpol in May 11-21, 2014 led to 8.4 million doses of counterfeit drugs being confiscated.
5. 237 people were arrested worldwide and 10,603 websites that were selling counterfeit medicines were shut down in 2014.
6. An estimated 80% of the counterfeit drugs that are consumed in the United States come from overseas.
7. Internet sales of counterfeit drugs account for $75 billion of the total market.
8. Most of the counterfeit drugs that are made have been manufactured in either India or China.
9. The WHO also estimates that between 1% and 10% of drugs sold around the world are counterfeits, but it may be as high as 50% in some countries.
10. About 60 different Pfizer medicines and products were being counterfeited around the world as of 2014.
11. One of the leading counterfeited items is actually ChapStick.
12. The prescription drug market is vast and lucrative – up to $900 billion worldwide annually.
13. Pfizer’s own investigative work into counterfeit drugs leads to about 50 or 60 convictions each year.
14. About 85% of the world pharmaceutical market is in developed world.
15. WHO estimates that 16% of counterfeit drugs contain the wrong ingredients, while 17% contain the wrong levels of necessarily ingredients.
16. More than 30% of the counterfeit drugs that are available today don’t contain any active ingredients whatsoever.
17. Eli Lilly has invested $110 million into stamping unique codes and serial numbers on every drug package that it sells around the world so they can be effectively tracked.
18. In late 2013, Chinese authorities reported detaining 1,300 suspected counterfeiters and confiscating $362 million worth of fake drugs and raw materials.
19. A recent survey of seven African countries by WHO found that between 20% and 90% of all anti-malarials failed quality testing.
20. European statistics show in particular a strong increase of drug counterfeit seizures at the European customs, with a total of 2.7 million of drugs seized in 2006, representing a growth of 384% compared to 2005.
How Counterfeit Drugs is Defined
The fact that there is not a universal definition of counterfeit drugs makes it difficult for countries to exchange vital information about this practice. It also makes it difficult to understand the issue on a global scale because the statistics about counterfeit drugs will all have a local bias. The World Health Organization has asked countries to adopt a clear definition of drug counterfeiting to alleviate this issue, but as of the end of 2014, nothing has been accomplished to consolidate the data.
The problem of counterfeit drugs isn’t just something that affects the developed world. These drugs first appeared in the primary streams of international commerce in 1985 and public awareness of the issue has been growing since then. These drugs are dangerous not because of their counterfeit nature, but because of how they are created. Many of them don’t have the active ingredients that the bottle claims they have. Some even have the wrong ingredients, while others have incorrect quantities of the correct ingredients.
From an end user standpoint, counterfeit drugs are dangerous. If therapeutic levels of a drug cannot be reached, then an effective treatment cannot be had. If a patient takes an incorrect drug, it could actually harm their health in unanticipated ways. As the statistics will show, counterfeit drugs are a serious problem, even if those statistics might seem inconsistent from a global point of view.
Dangers of Counterfeit Drugs
The dangers of counterfeit drugs are that people will expect to get one thing, but wind up receiving another. What is causing this problem and making counterfeit drugs so profitable? The fact that the pharmaceutical industry is worth so much. With nearly $1 trillion in drug sales annually, it could be said that people are addicted to medicine.
For those in developing countries, the problem is one of health. Malaria drugs are one of the most popular drugs that have been counterfeited. In the United States and other industrialized nations, the problem is found more in lifestyle drugs, such as Viagra or Cialis, than in life extending medication. The issue is so extensive that Pfizer reports sending 2 or 3 cases for law enforcement investigation weekly after they’ve conducted their own internal investigation.
The easiest, best way for the average person to avoid counterfeit drugs is to purchase what they need from an approved pharmacist. Does this mean that a doctor’s prescription will be needed for that purchase? Yes. It also means that there could be a chance that the wanted pills, such as those that work to help people diet more effectively or have reproductive system responses that are more desirable, may not be offered.
The cost of medicine is almost always a deciding factor. Counterfeit drugs can be made cheaply and sold for 50% of the cost of the real thing. For those who need or want medicine and don’t have the money to go through the doctor, looking at the private market seems to be the next best option. The only problem is that the next best option is also illegal.
When oversight and drug regulation is weaker, drug counterfeiting is stronger. By educating the public about the dangers of counterfeit drugs with statistics like these, along with more comprehensive procedures for drug administration, the dangers of counterfeit drugs can ease.