Counterfeit Drugs Become Growing Problem

News outlets report on the growing international counterfeit drug market.

"Last year, nearly 1,700 incidents of counterfeit drugs were reported worldwide, triple the number in 2004
, says the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), a group funded by drugmakers," USA Today reports. "Estimates for the size of the counterfeit drug market range from $75 billion to $200 billion a year. The market is likely much bigger because many cases are hard to detect. And the problem is expected to get worse. ... A weak economy along with rising drug prices are likely leading consumers to seek out cheaper products online or from unauthorized providers, stoking demand for counterfeit drugs, says Bryan Liang, a board member at the Partnership for Safe Medicines. ... Today, drug rings in Asia, particularly in China and India, are increasingly churning out fake versions of popular brands and generics, then selling them to consumers online or in the black market. PSI estimates that fake versions of about 800 pharmaceutical products were made last year" (Chu, 9/12).

The Wall Street Journal's Numbers Guy questions a statistic quoted in an IBM commercial that "touts IBM technology to tag drug packaging to screen for fakes, which can be merely impotent or downright toxic." The ad asserts that "ten percent of the world's medicine is counterfeit," a statistic that "has been attributed to the World Health Organization or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but both agencies today disavow it. Fake pills likely make up 1% of sales or less in developed countries, where most drugs are sold, according to WHO" (Bialik, 9/11).

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