Nothing surprising then to see that traffickers no longer belong only to highly organized crime networks. They can also be small groups of individuals who cobble together falsified medicines locally with plaster, flour, or dust.
A recent doctoral thesis on the subject distinguished 3 types of organisations:
Made up of 2 to 5 people, they are generally found in Western countries where one person imports counterfeit medical products, alone or with 2 or 3 accomplices from China or India. Their goal is to earn money through the sale of these products targeted at a specific population with highly competitive prices.
An example is the “Mimi Trieu affair” Owner of a beauty salon in Philadelphia, she imported and sold falsified diet pills made in China over a period of 3 years. According to US authorities, between 2008 and 2010, she sold 1 750 000 illegal pills for an estimated total value of 245 000 US dollars.
Mid-size, transnational organisations:
These organisations bring together a dozen people that belong either to organized crime, the legal pharmaceutical industry, or simply opportunistic speculators.
The “Peter Gillespie affair” is a prime example. A 65 year old British citizen, accountant and pharmaceutical distributor, imported 72 000 boxes of counterfeit medicines between December 2006 and May 2007, the equivalent of over 2 million doses. This falsified medication was made in China and imported via Hong-Kong. It was packaged to resemble French products and distributed in the United Kingdom using a parallel distribution channel that is legal in the European Union. All the associates earned a net profit of 3.6 million Euros.
Multi-national crime organisations:
In contrast to the previous, human-sized organizations, this group is characterized by the leaders’ professional methods as well as the sophistication and unprecedented magnitude of networks for counterfeit medication. They also function at a much more complex transnational level with a much longer timeframe.
The RxNorth affair, which lasted 5 years, and the “Jordanian-Chinese” channel that would become the “Avastin” channel, which lasted a decade, are two emblematic cases (for details on these affairs, see the LEEM and the IRACM reports on counterfeit medication).