Europe Survey on Counterfeiting

Only 20% of Europeans1 associate counterfeiting with medicines

– According to the survey1 of 5,010 people conducted by happycurious for Sanofi
in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and England –

Paris, France – Committed to the fight against counterfeiting for many years, Sanofi now reveals how Europeans perceive counterfeit drugs through a survey of 5,010 people in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The general public is not sufficiently informed about the existence of counterfeit drugs and the risks it may be taking in certain purchasing situations. Counterfeit medicines are a real danger to patients’ health. For example, they may not contain the same amount of active ingredient as the genuine drug or not meet the same requirements in terms of quality, efficiency and safety as the genuine treatments”, said Dr Caroline Atlani, anti-counterfeiting coordination director at Sanofi. “77% of those surveyed feel they do not receive sufficient information about counterfeit medicines. These results confirm the need to continue our fight against drug counterfeiting, especially by raising public awareness”.

Europeans and what they know about counterfeiting: primarily luxury goods and clothing brands

Very few of the Europeans surveyed associate the term ‘counterfeiting’ with medicines (20%). It is the French and the Germans who are the most well informed, while the respondents in Spain appeared to be less concerned by the issue. Respondents usually associate counterfeiting with luxury goods and major clothing brands.

While a majority (66%) have heard of drug counterfeiting, respondents seem to have little information on the issue of counterfeit medicines: 77% say they have not been adequately informed or are ignorant on the subject.

84% of those surveyed say they have never seen or identified a counterfeit drug.

There is a consensus among Europeans about the DANGER of counterfeit medicines insofar as 96% believe that counterfeit drugs can be and are probably dangerous.

Potential exposure to counterfeit medicines: first the Internet, then travel

The perception of the danger of counterfeit medicines is crystallized around online drug purchasing, since 90% of respondents name the Internet as the primary potential source of dissemination of counterfeit medicines.

Of the 18% of people claiming to have purchased drugs online, 78% felt that their purchase was safe.

In contrast, 60% of those who said they had never purchased medicines online did not because they felt that this method of sale represented a real danger. 55% of the total sample simply said that they prefer physical points of sale.

There are wide differences between countries regarding the use of the Internet for drug purchases: Germany is rather special in that economic arguments have led to online purchasing becoming commonplace. The United Kingdom also seems more prone to online purchasing, but nonetheless remains cautious, and the three Latin countries (France, Spain and Italy) are very reticent.

51% of the total sample surveyed feels that they may be exposed to counterfeit drugs when traveling. Europeans tend to plan ahead, as 81% say they travel with a first aid kit.

The fight against drug counterfeiting, a major issue for Sanofi

In 2007 Sanofi created a central coordination unit of internal expertise potentially affected by drug counterfeiting: Industrial Affairs, Safety, Medical and Regulatory Affairs, Legal, Public Affairs and Communication. This operational network improves reactivity and helps to implement concrete actions to fight against drug counterfeiting. In 2008, the group created the Central Laboratory for Counterfeit Analyses on its pharmaceutical site in Tours to analyse products suspected of being counterfeit versions of Sanofi drugs. Working hand in hand with national and international authorities, Sanofi and other stakeholders are in favour of passing legislation to fight effectively against counterfeit medicines and punish the perpetrators. Sanofi also strives to raise public awareness through a website providing information and advice and has also created a ‘travel tips’ application. In December 2012 and January 2013 Sanofi conducted a campaign to raise awareness among Air France’s long-haul passengers by producing a film played on aircraft and publishing tips in the on-flight magazine.

Drug counterfeiting across the globe

  • 1 in 10 drugs sold worldwide is counterfeit; this figure reaches 7 out of 10 in some countries2.
  • In recent years, medicines were the leading counterfeit products seized by European customs, ahead of counterfeit cigarettes3.
  • $75 billion in 2010: the profits yielded by counterfeit medicines; they are greater than those derived from drug trafficking4.
  • For every $1,000 invested, criminals can generate $20,000 in profits from heroin trafficking and $400,000 by trafficking counterfeit medicines5.
  • In 2013, 99 countries collaborated on Operation Pangea VI to fight against illegal online pharmacies. It resulted in the closure of 13,700 websites and the seizure of more than 10 million drugs worth a total of $36 million5.

About Sanofi

Sanofi, a global healthcare leader, discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions focused on patients’ needs. Sanofi has core strengths in the field of healthcare with seven growth platforms: diabetes solutions, human vaccines, innovative drugs, consumer healthcare, emerging markets, animal health and the new Genzyme. Sanofi is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY).

Survey available on request.

Contacts at Sanofi:
Press Relations
Flore Larger

1 happycurious survey conducted for SANOFI among a sample of 5,010 Europeans in France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK, representative of the population (gender, age, region) from April 7 to 17, 2014 (self-administered and collected online).
2 LEEM (, 2011)
3 Pharmaceutical Security Institute “2011 situation report”
4 Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM)
5 Interpol – “Operation Pangea VI”