Fake Medicines may Kill a Million a Year

  • by Pavol Stracansky (bucharest)
  • Inter Press Service

Millions of counterfeit tablets and medicines, some of them containing lethal heavy metals, are smuggled annually. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 50 percent of medicines sold online are fake. But while some Eastern European states have brought in strict laws and procedures to fight fake medicine smugglers, criminals in the region are thought to be working with international gangs in neighbouring states to bring contraband medicines into the EU.

Gabriel Turcu, partner at the European anti-counterfeiting organisation REACT, told IPS: 'It has been shown that there are people in Central and Eastern European EU member states working with organised gangs in neighbouring countries to bring counterfeit medicines into the European Union and westwards. This is a significant challenge for the region.'

Just like the drug and people trafficking trade, the counterfeit medicine industry is estimated to be worth tens of billions of euros per year for crime gangs, and is mushrooming every year. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has estimated that this year the illegal market in counterfeit medicines will provide more than 75 billion euros in revenues for smugglers -- a rise of 92 percent on 2005.

Police forces say that fake medicines, sometimes so well-prepared and packaged that they can fool even healthcare professionals, are being shipped out by crooks in the same illegal consignments as narcotics. Gangs then sell them on to unscrupulous medicine wholesalers or direct to the public online.

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service