Drug Counterfeiting is one of the most underrated crimes in the world. It is seldom being focused in the media. If it is, it takes only the 1-minute news segment or an inner paged column in the newspaper. Moreover, this illegal practice is common in countries considered poor. Because of this, it does not entirely attract global attention.
Drug counterfeiting is a crucial issue as it is the cause of unnecessary morbidity, mortality and loss of public confidence in medicines and health structures. In its present situation, however, only non-profit organizations’ names are being dragged and involved in most of its cases. World Health Organization (WHO) has been actively participating in its chase, so is Impact, the Peterson Group and other NGOs which even get little recognition from the public.
The prevalence of counterfeit drugs seems to be rising as stated in dozens of reviews and studies. The most likely target are countries with loose security measures but cities such as Jakarta, Indonesia, Beijing, China and even Singapore are involved even when there are strict impositions of regulations and heavy penalties within their boundaries.
According to a study conducted by Plos Journal, “…It has been estimated that up to 15% of all sold drugs are fake, and in parts of Africa and Asia this figure exceeds 50%”. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on the other hand, estimates that 10% of global medicine market is fraud. Hence, this estimate suggests that criminal sales on drug counterfeiting amount to $35,000,000,000 per year. The number has been predicted to double within the last five years, albeit the total scope of the problem cannot be fully determined.
Demographics and difference of culture hinder researchers to fully identify the scale of the issue. Also, most recent studies suggest that many pharmaceutical companies and governments have been reluctant to publicize the problem to health staff and the public, apparently motivated by the belief that the “publicity will harm the sales of brand-name products in a fiercely competitive business”. Publicly, at least, several industry sources say the justification for secrecy is to avoid any alarm that could prevent patients taking their genuine medicines.
Yet, NGOs see the dangers on the lack of warnings. It can harm patients and only protects pharmaceutical companies. In the side of the government, there is a dilemma on which to prioritize between health and economic industry.
While some drug companies have given public warnings to protect patients, others have been criticized for withholding information. Even courts fail to act. When will they ever be transparent?