Pointer Blog / Fake Pharma: When Counterfeiting Deals with Life or Death

Fake Pharma: When Counterfeiting Deals with Life or Death

When you think of counterfeit goods, does your mind instantly jump to rip-off handbags and cheap football jerseys? Maybe you’ve ordered one of these cheap imitation products with the best of intentions only to realize that you’ve been duped when you receive your sub-standard package in the mail.


If you’ve read our blog in the past, you’ll know that counterfeiting comprises more than just the manufacturing of these kinds of frivolous material items. There are parallel trades, and grey markets, and even cars malfunctioning because of fake car parts. The consequences of counterfeiting are more than a bruised ego because you fell for a scam. Though this may sound grandiose, the consequences of counterfeiting can actually be the difference between life or death.   


Fake Pharmaceuticals


Imagine you fall ill. Your head is throbbing, you’re full of mucus and phlegm, and your body is so exhausted that the thought of rolling out of bed to get a cup of soup from the kitchen gives you an even bigger headache than you already have. But you’ve ordered some discount medication online so you should be feeling better in no time.


Except, that medication is entirely composed of your average household cleaning supplies and contains no trace of legitimate ingredients. But you don’t know this because it’s packaged in the right box and it looks and feels like a real tablet. So you take it, unsuspectingly, and you’re consigned to your bed for who knows how much longer.


If you’re thinking this sounds like a rare circumstance, then you’ll be appalled to learn that there was recently a case just like this in Germany a few weeks ago… except that instead of combatting the common cold, patients were receiving fake medication for a drug that was supposed to cure their cancer. The drug, called Sutent, has since been recalled from pharmacies across Germany, but that doesn’t bate the outrage of patients who had been consuming the fake medication for months, some even years.


Awareness is key in these kinds of circumstances. There is, in fact, an enormous underground market for counterfeit pharmaceuticals because of how profitable it is for the vendors and producers and the relatively light legal recourse against them. Their products can be found across the globe, on most online platforms, and even in a market as seemingly unpenetrable and safeguarded as Germany—a country known for their strict regulations and red tape. This particular Sutent smuggling-ring, born out of Greece, amounts to a multi-million euro conspiracy. And that’s just one of the counterfeit drugs that has managed to penetrate the market.  


For those who live in a resources-limited location, purchasing a cheap drug online might very well be their only option. Unfortunately, the people who live in the harshest conditions and need the best healthcare are the ones who are actually relegated to the online marketplace and thus most susceptible to counterfeit pharmaceuticals. In dire circumstances and with failing health, these victims are using futile medication, which all too often costs them their lives.  


The Numbers


Fair warning: the numbers are bleak. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that one in ten medical products in developing countries are substandard or falsified. This means that the people who have the least amount of access or means to afford the healthcare that they so require are the ones most affected by counterfeit drugs. When roughly one-third of the world already lacks access to basic essential medicine, 10% of those purchasing medical treatment are receiving pharmaceuticals that either have the incorrect active agent, are expired, are mis-dosed, or worse. That’s a lot of lives being lost at the hands of selfish, profit-seeking counterfeiters.


Putting Out The Fire


For such a large-scale issue, the solutions may seem like they have little impact—like trying to put out a house fire with a thimble full of water. But the thing is, no one should be getting engulfed in flames due to these kinds of man-made schemes. And though we may not be able to get to the root of the problem—that is, shutting down all production of counterfeit pharmaceuticals—we can work towards blacklisting the online vendors and eliminating their sales channels. By shutting down online sales opportunities, counterfeit pharmaceutical trade would shrink significantly.  


The more people reporting counterfeit vendors, the fewer fake products made available online for unsuspecting victims of counterfeit crimes to purchase. The more people dumping thimbles of water over a house fire, the better the chances that the fire will be put out.


How We Can All Help


At Pointer we believe that we don’t just protect brands, we protect people. Though our solutions are focused on covering IP infringements, the results of this coverage lead to a safer world by reinforcing secure trade which generates a clean online market and safe consumers.


If you’re a brand owner or manager, you can fight the good fight by choosing to protect your brand’s IP rights, leading the way to a safer future for all consumers. And if you’re a consumer and you spot a fake online, please report it in on our website so we can take action against the illegal vendors.


If you’d like to know more about our solutions and our values, please visit our website. Together, we can work to make sure fewer lives teeter on the edge of fake pharmaceuticals.  

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