Magazine Article | April 30, 2009

Combating Counterfeit Drugs

By Ann Roberts Brice, Life Science Leader magazine

The United States has its fair share of drug counterfeiters, and some of them are connected to organized crime. Sources of counterfeited and diverted medicines are sometimes traceable to domestic locations, but more often to India and China and other countries on trade routes in between. The profits are good, and the criminal penalties are lacking, which creates a lucrative risk/reward profile for criminals. Internet pharmacies that dispense illegal medicines have proliferated in recent years, making the challenges of combating illegal drugs in the United States even more complex.

While U.S. drug counterfeits appear to be holding at a steady 1% or less of pharmaceuticals sold, the ease of Internet purchasing combined with the current economic downturn may cause this percentage to rise sharply. Cheaper drugs, even those from questionable sources, are likely to become increasingly more attractive to consumers. Realizing this, drug companies and industry leaders are actively creating solutions to address the problem. The response is both collective and individual as technologies are adopted and legislation is sought that will diminish the incentives for criminals.