EU Pharma Industry Loses Nearly 27 BN Euros Annually Due to Counterfeit Drugs
Based on five years of research, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has just released latest counterfeiting statistics in its “Synthesis Report on IPR Infringement“. The report specifically looks at EU industries most affected by counterfeits such as pharmaceuticals, smartphones, wine and spirits, and clothing and fashion accessories.
Counterfeit medicines: a threat to public health and safety and to the economy
Counterfeit medicines are dangerous. They can contain the wrong ingredients, lethal doses of active ingredients or no active ingredients at all (which can be just as deadly) etc. But what makes medicines so attractive for counterfeiting? According to the International Institute of Research against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM) the return on 1000 USD ‘invested’ in counterfeit pharmaceuticals might be as much as 500 000 USD, which makes it a lucrative trade. With dire consequences. A 2015 report revealed that 25.8% of all goods seized by customs officials would be considered dangerous to the health and safety of consumers.
EUIPO estimates that the EU pharmaceutical industry loses the equivalent of nearly 7% in sales per year due to counterfeit drugs which amounts to 26,9bn Euros annually. An average of 7100 jobs are lost annually due to counterfeit medicines, a figure that is even higher if you count jobs indirectly affected (more than 40 000 lost annually).
New business models for counterfeiters
Undoubtedly, internet facilitates counterfeiting. Anyone can open a website and there are thousands of illegal online ‘pharmacies’ out there. One particularly popular method to attract and trick new ‘customers’ is the misuse of the domain name system to generate traffic to e-shops selling counterfeit goods.
Another tendency observed by EUIPO was that customs data at EU borders indicate that seized counterfeits are increasingly in the form of small shipments include greater proportions of spare parts, including replacement car parts and components for mobile phones, such as screens or batteries.
Another increasingly used method is the smuggling of labels and other packaging separate from the actual goods, with final assembly and other production activities taking place inside the EU.
How to protect patients from counterfeit medicines
Whether through end-to-end verification (in Europe as demanded by the Falsified Medicines Directive) or information exchange all along the supply chain (as required by the US Drug Supply Chain Security Act), pharmaceutical companies can play their part in fighting against the introduction of counterfeit drugs into the pharmaceutical supply chain. Indeed more and more countries are setting up laws requiring unique product identification (UPID), serialization, and / or track&trace to actively fight counterfeit medicines. Download our Global Serialization Landscape.