WHO Joins Fight Against Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals

March 1, 2002
Jill Wechsler, Pharm Exec's Washington Correspondent

Jill Wechsler is Pharm Exec's Washington Corespondent

Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-03-01-2002,

The spread of counterfeit products around the world has alarmed companies and international agencies and prompted them to accelerate efforts to address the problem

The spread of counterfeit products around the world has alarmed companies and international agencies and prompted them to accelerate efforts to address the problem. Some authorities estimate that counterfeits now account for more than 5 percent of all medicines. Africa and Latin America have even higher rates for certain product categories such as anti-malaria medicines.

The Global R&D Spend

In response, the World Health Organization is working with industry and regional authorities to develop anticounterfeit standards and guidelines. WHO also aims to help regulatory authorities expand inspection systems and quality control laboratories to improve detection of illegal products. WHO has launched several initiatives that will:

  • create a database on counterfeit drug information from member nations

  • develop global guidelines for combating counterfeits

  • organize national and international workshops to increase awareness of the issue

  • sponsor training courses for regulators and GMP inspectors to better screen and identify counterfeit products

  • create a working group of industry organizations to develop preventive initiatives

  • make available posters, fact sheets, and videos to promote national campaigns against counterfeits

  • conduct studies in individual countries to assess the problem.

Pharma companies need to adopt more aggressive programs to fight counterfeiters, advises Ian Lancaster of Reconnaissance International in London. Companies can start by adding identifiers to product labeling and packaging. The next step is to put holograms and paper watermarks on products, and a third security measure is the use of identifiers visible only under ultraviolet light. Pharmaceutical counterfeiting is a worldwide problem that has been growing for the past decade, Lancaster notes. He is developing an anticounterfeiting manual that will be unveiled at a briefing on pharmaceutical anticounterfeiting solutions in Washington, DC on April 22.

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