Articles from February 2010

POST issues counterfeit report following Pfizer’s study

The UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) has compiled a counterfeit report following a study commissioned by Pfizer which highlighted the value of the European illicit medicines market that now tops €10.5 billion.

POST’s report examines the effect on the UK of the global trade in fake medicines, the technologies and policy options available to combat it as well as examining the risks and benefits of online pharmacies, one of the main channels for the distribution of counterfeit products.

It also provides insight into plans by the European Commission to strengthen the medicine supply chains though a proposed directive and the UK’s MHRA consultation on policies to improve the security of the regulated national supply chain. Read POST’s short briefing notes on the POST site.

Google requires VIPPS accreditation for internet pharmacy ads

Google has announced that the company will accept ads only from internet pharmacies in the US that are accredited through the VIPPS® (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites(CM)) program, and from internet pharmacies in Canada that are accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. 

VIPPS-accredited pharmacies have successfully completed the thorough accreditation process of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®). This includes a review of all policies and procedures of the practice of pharmacy and dispensing of medicine over the internet, as well as an on-site inspection of all facilities used by the site to receive, review, and dispense medicine. 

NABP’s president Gary A. Schnabel, RN, RPh, says «For too long, rogue Web sites posing as legitimate pharmacies have continued, unabated, to peddle substandard, tainted, and counterfeit drugs to unwitting patients…Google’s policy change is a major step toward ridding the internet of these operations, and we applaud Google’s commitment to patient safety.» Read the full story on the NABP site (Thursday 11 February 2010).

Shortages reported of 40 commonly used drugs as speculators sell NHS drugs for profit in Europe

Drugs used to treat a range of conditions including high blood pressure, cancers and epilepsy are in short supply, putting patients’ health at risk, due to wholesalers and occasionally pharmacists selling more than 40 commonly used drugs, intended for patients of the UK, for higher profits in Europe.

Although it is not illegal to sell medicines bought at prices negotiated by the NHS at a profit in Europe, health minister Mike O’Brien believes those who are trading could be in breach of an obligation to ensure the NHS is supplied of medicines first. Read the full story on The Guardian site (Tuesday 9th February 2010). 

Pfizer’s ‘Cracking Counterfeit Europe’ survey values counterfeit market at €10.5 billion

In one of the largest investigations of its kind, new research commissioned by Pfizer reveals a massive black market economy generated by counterfeit medicines, as Europeans risk their health by purchasing medicines online from illicit sources.

Until now, estimates of the scale of the hidden fake medicines market have been vague. However, the ‘Cracking Counterfeit Europe’ research (undertaken across 14 European countries) now values it at more than €10.5 billion per year.

Worryingly, Pfizer’s new research revealed one in five of the 14,000 people surveyed (21%) are using the internet to buy prescription-only medicines from illicit online sources–despite the estimation that between 50 and 90% of medicines bought online are fake.

Dr David Gillen, Pfizer’s Medical Director said: “People across Europe are risking their health and contributing to the criminal economy by accessing medicines from outside legitimate healthcare systems.» Read the full story on the Pfizer site.

Our chair, Jim Thomson, was one of the first to respond to the findings of Pfizer’s survey, telling Reuters that: “Counterfeit medicine is costing the industry a huge amount of money but it’s costing healthcare providers a lot more.»

Two brothers sentenced for illegal sale of unlicensed drugs

On Wednesday 10 February 2010, brothers Assad and Fraz Hussain were sentenced at Leicester Crown Court for the illegal sale and supply of lifestyle medicines. 

Investigations by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Leicester Trading Standards found that Fraz and Assad Hussain had been selling a sexual dysfunction drug, Pauinystalia Yohimbe; labelled as Extensis, from their home via a number of illicit websites.

As a result Assad Hussain was sentenced with a £35,000 confiscation order, fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs, and Fraz Hussain received a conditional discharge for twelve months.

MHRA Head of Enforcement Mick Deats warned, “This case highlights the reason why people should ensure that they only obtain their medication from legitimate outlets, for example, their doctor or pharmacist…There is a considerable risk to the public from obtaining medicines through unregulated websites as there is no guarantee about their safety, quality or indeed that they even work.” Read the full press release on the MHRA site (Thursday 11 February 2010).

The battle against counterfeits gets technical

Biofem Pharmaceuticals and the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) launch a mobile authentication service (MAS) in an attempt to thwart counterfeit drugs in Nigeria.

The pilot project currently involves a scratch card that hides a six-label code on the packages of medicines; patients send these codes free via a text message, and immediately receive a response indicating if the medicine is genuine or fake. The goal is to eventually implement MAS on all medicines at risk of counterfeiting. Read the full story on the Healthcare Packaging site (Wednesday 10 February 2010).

WHO study reveals almost half of anti-malaria drugs in Africa are poor quality

Studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Pharmacopeia group reveal between 26% and 44% of anti-malaria drugs in Uganda, Senegal and Madagascar subjected to quality-control testing in a US laboratory contained impurities or inadequate amounts of active ingredients.
Robert Newman, WHO malaria programme chief, expressed concern that low-quality versions of the drug could increase resistance because the drugs would not kill all of the parasites; Mr. Newman said «there are a number of things that need to be done – as a global community we need to support countries in strengthening their regulatory controls». Data is yet to be published from another seven countries. Read the full story on the BBC site (Monday 8 February 2010).