In 2012, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) estimated that a total of 523 types of drugs have been counterfeited.
However, the types of drugs most counterfeited vary by global region and targeted populations.
- In developing countries, traffickers target “vital” drugs and those of “first necessity”. Anti-malarials, antibiotics, TB, ARVs used in particular against the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), but also analgesics, anti-inflammatory medicines, and blood products are among the most widely falsified medical products, resulting in major risks to public health. The proliferation of falsified drugs has also resulted in patients developing a growing distrust of health systems, which slows their development in those countries that need it most.
- In the United States, the situation is different. With a sharp contrast in prices with neighboring countries and considering the gaps in social coverage and the reimbursement of medical care, counterfeiting focuses mainly on products with high added value such as cancer medication and growth factor blockers.
The traffic of falsified “comfort” drugs has developed widely in wealthy countries in Europe as well as the United States, especially with the advent of online sales of medical products. Internet knows no borders and facilitates the traffic of all types of drugs internationally.
Doping products, products against sexual dysfunctions (such as Viagra), and weight loss products are frequently purchased online because they are not reimbursed, representing an ideal target for traffickers.
Countries with efficient reimbursement systems for medical expenses and regulated distribution channels, which are organized and supervised by health agencies are less exposed than others. However, with the Internet the quantity of counterfeit drugs is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere. “Comfort” drugs are no longer the only ones involved; all medical products are concerned!