Drug counterfeiting has been an issue since forever. Thousands of online sites have been raided and closed down after being traced as scams, selling fake medicines using fraudulent IP addresses. On some buy-bust operations, the products are found to be composed of chalk, paint or wax or basically anything powder which is used every day. These substandard medicines are suspected to have taken numerous lives and have flown unaccounted for.
Selling counterfeit medicines and medical devices often operate outside of jurisdictional borders, creating greater obstacles to successful anti-counterfeiting enforcement. For this reason, international cooperation and coordination is essential to creating solutions for the pharmaceutical counterfeiting problem.
Regional and global non-profit organizations starting from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the Local Government Units (LGU) in each community have finally become aware of the rampant spread of counterfeit medicines especially in third world countries. Africa and Asia are likely the most targets.
According to activity reviews of 2010, WHO and INTERPOL have led the effort to combat counterfeit medicines in Asia. Operation Storm was a multi-country operation combating counterfeit pharmaceuticals. It brought together the Customs, Drug Regulatory Agencies and the Police of each participating country: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The operation seized over $12M in counterfeit medicines and more than 16 million pills, including antibiotics, anti-malarials, contraceptives, anti-tetanus vaccines, aspirin and drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. In late 2009, Operation Storm II resulted in the seizure of 20 million counterfeit and illicit drug outlets. This year, the number has dwindled to a minimum as fewer countries have participated.
The Peterson Group, one of the non-profit organizations campaigning against counterfeit medicines, noted that only more or less 15 organizations have gathered in the annual event held in West Jakarta last August.
However, WHO has stated that this is not because other countries and NGOs have stopped their campaign. Instead, in their absence in the annual event, they are also hosting their own seminars and awareness programs in their own respective nations.
Take for example the in 1999 when the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) adopted a statement on counterfeit medicines during the Council meeting at the FIP Congress in Barcelona. Because of the growing and changing aspect of this major public health care issue, FIP has updated its Policy statement on counterfeit medicines in 2003 during its Council meeting at the FIP Congress in Sydney. This statement is a strong political message of the pharmacists‟ profession to support the fight against counterfeit medicines to protect the safety of their patients.