While falsified medical products are proliferating throughout the globe, including amongst our European neighbors who have discovered such products within their legal supply channels, France for the moment seems to have been remarkably spared by the scourge.
Though falsified medical products do circulate in our country, a fact that was revealed through customs seizures and a recent incident with the online traffic of falsified Viagra®, no such product has managed to enter our legal distribution channel.
This French particularity can perhaps be explained by our unique and highly safe health system:
- Pharmaceutical Monopoly: medication is subject to required prescriptions and can only be dispensed in a pharmacy or hospital. A pharmacist is responsible for the quality of a medication from its fabrication until delivery to the patient.
- Wholesale distributors: responsible for supplying pharmacies, they ensure the link between the latter and laboratories. There are only a few and they must all fulfill precise norms (pharmaceutical establishment certificate) and are subject to regular inspections, ensuring maximal security for medication.
- Social Security’s reimbursement system: allows patients to obtain medication, often, without paying a single euro. Furthermore, the French market is characterized by lower prices than its neighboring countries. Both elements limit the temptation to buy medical products online or from abroad and thus increase the risk of seeing the spread of falsified medication.1
However, France is not alone in that it cannot afford to believe it is protected from this scourge.
The authorization to sell non-prescription medication on the Internet since 2013 has greatly increased the risk of spreading falsified medication in France. Because the Internet knows no borders, because it is anonymous and highly flexible, it has become a major vector for these illegal and dangerous products.
In addition, the current trend towards market deregulation and a completely free circulation of goods in Europe could facilitate the circulation of falsified medicines and their introduction into legal supply chains. For example, this has led to integrating a new intermediary into the distribution channel for medication: the broker, as used in Anglo-saxon systems. This intermediary is not subject to similarly strict rules as pharmaceutical establishments. He thus incurs a major risk of introducing falsified medication into legal channels.
Though France is for the moment spared the scourge of falsified medication, the current changes in its health system and the worsening of the global situation concerning falsified medication must lead to renewed vigilance and the adoption of necessary measures to safeguard against this scourge.