Monday, December 21, 2015

How to Identify Fake Online Pharmacy

After a massive close down of thousands of websites found to be fake online pharmacies using individuals claiming to be doctors and issuing fraudulent prescriptions or selling counterfeit medicines, the authorities have imposed warnings to be the public to be more cautious in any transactions done online especially on pro-health claiming sites. In response, sales of online pharmacies began to drop, affecting even the legitimate entrepreneurs online.

Although most would not comment, there are those who filed their complaints for the public to see such as the Canadian-based online pharmacy, who asserted that their products are legitimate. This company, along with that of several others in UK stated that they never give prescriptions even when it is only to comment on an inquiry but instead encourage their clients to seek a physician first. The medicines prescribed by a legitimate doctor is then emailed or faxed to them.

The manager, under the name Carl, admitted he had lost most of his clients who suspected his business and has therefore spoiled his good name. In an interview with The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization providing imperative information on counterfeit medicines, one of Carl’s clients who chose to speak anonymously accused Carl’s company for selling “sugar pills”. Carl then resolutely stated that these allegations are without merit and that his company has never sold any fraud medicines. The case is still under investigation as the drugs were traced to be manufactured in Jakarta, Indonesia.

According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Legitimate pharmacy sites on the Internet provide consumers with a convenient, private way to obtain needed medications, sometimes at more affordable prices. The elderly and persons in remote areas can avoid the inconvenience of traveling to a store to purchase medications. Many reputable Internet pharmacies allow patients to consult with a licensed pharmacist from the privacy of their home.”

But this is not without risk. There is still no knowing whether the site is safe just because the purchase is convenient and the appearance looks legitimate enough.

To be sure, FDA encourages consumers to first check where a list of illegitimate online pharmacies is published.  These include those that claim to dispense drugs without a prescription or sell products not approved by the FDA, and, of course, fake online pharmacies that are downright fraudulent.

In addition to being included on this list, other warning signs of fake online pharmacies include sites that don’t provide a physical address for their business or don’t list a verifiable phone number.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Process of Diversion in Legitimate Process

There is a definite process followed by a lot of counterfeiters across the world. Some of these methods have already been tackled by authorities. These have been tracked and sought after in many countries for similar processes. Others remain a mystery even to the Interpol and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  For instance, how the counterfeiters were able to infiltrate the tight security around Jakarta without being detected in Java and other islands of Indonesia is still being reviewed. Even more surprising is the increasing number of counterfeiting cases when the government has clearly imposed immediate execution to anyone found to illegally smuggle goods within the archipelago. One thing is for sure though, these counterfeiters not only work with black markets selling ample amount of fraud goods. They have also already penetrated the legitimate market, blending in with the real products and making it hard for the authorities to capture the main culprit.

While there is the emergence of tampering and stealing of intellectual property rights from legitimate manufacturers, other methods of fraudulence include Diversion. 

In this level, medicines created and designed for a specific market or function is remarketed in violation of the producer’s instructions. These counterfeiters mostly target non-profit and humanitarian organizations or the supply of free samples to hospitals and clinics. 

According to a study conducted by The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines across the world shows that between 1992 and 2002, prescriptions written for unscheduled and scheduled drugs increased by 56.6% and 154.3% respectively.

Further emphasized in the study is that diversion can happen within the limits of a specific country or it may become an international scope.

Drug diversion in North Korea is one of the examples the first form of this kind of phenomenon. Since there are no other sources of medicines in this secluded country, some corrupt officials steal some of the medicines and resell it to the citizens even when it is marked as “UN aid”.

The other form of this phenomenon is driven by economic motive. For instance, an aid from the western countries can be halted by other leading countries and sold to neighboring nations for a higher price. The entity can also fraudulently acquire the products from the producer, declaring an intention to deliver the drugs for humanitarian purposes but in reality it re-markets the drugs after acquiring them at low cost. These international exchanges are implemented through multiple transfers and involve frequent repackaging of the product, thereby providing opportunities for counterfeit products to penetrate the legal distribution chain.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

China still a Drug Counterfeit Hub

For decades, we have heard of different warnings by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the dangers of counterfeit medicines which dominate today’s online pharmacies and most of the gray markets across the world. Variations of counterfeit medicines are being introduced from Tamiflu found in the United States; Bevacizumab in Turkey, Switzerland, Denmark, UK and Canada; chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as antimalarial drugs in Kenya and Africa; and Viagra and Cialis in Jakarta, Indonesia and Victoria, Hong Kong. The number and varieties are continuously growing as more and more counterfeit medicines are being discovered. The likely targets are the expensive ones since it can be hard to procure and are less to get any suspicion.

Tracing back the root source of these medicines, we are always led towards China, the leading manufacturer of counterfeit medicines. The world’s largest country’s reputation for counterfeiting not only medicines but also other products has been known globally. This status is not without any statistics and claims as well. There is enough reason to acknowledge any complaints on fraudulent distribution and shipment from China.

Local Chinese police, together with The Peterson Group, non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Interpol has arrested 1, 900 people on a crackdown in 2012 which was considered as one of the most lucrative operations in the history of counterfeiting earning millions of dollars each year.

Despite this arrest three years ago, the problem of fake medicines was far from being rooted out as operation after operation are still being raided every year. If so, fraudsters have even become more elusive and deceptive with new methods of production and distribution.

Fortunately, local units and organizations in the People’s Republic of China have realized the danger of the business that they too, started to create laws and regulations against the illegal practice. As reported by World Health Organization (WHO), the Chinese government has developed strict legal scheme for anti-counterfeiting by creating the Drug Administration Law of the PRC. The amendment not only adapted the need of drug supervision, but also represented the public will, somehow reflecting China’s determination in combating counterfeit medicines and not tolerating it, just as many people believe.

Since 2009, the local task force has also been in an active participation to any raids and buy-bust operations against illegal marketers of counterfeit medicines and has since joined forces with international organizations. The battle continues even until today.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

FDA Investigates the Use of Oxytocin in Ghana

Through the passing of years, the continent of Africa is one of the most frequented by drug smugglers. Not only are the less developed countries in the region were the ones mostly visited. Urbanized ones have been the venue for transaction. From these places, it gets easier for fraudsters to transfer their counterfeited drugs to other less secure regions. 

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, has reported new methods on the widespread of Oxytocin in Ghana, according to a tip by an anonymous informant. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has decided to further investigate on the matter and found out several big companies for fraudulently importing fake products in the country.

According to a report review, FDA claims the “dangerous drugs” have already found their way into hospitals and pharmacy shops.

Some women have apparently been administered with two such drugs, Oxytocin and Ergometrine, which are injected to control bleeding after delivery.

The contaminated Oxytocin reportedly was manufactured in China by companies with fake addresses.

In the case of Ergometrine, the FDA said their investigations showed that it was imported from Jakarta, Indonesia and contained no active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Critics, on the other hand, blame the laxity of FDA security in order to prevent the proliferation of the counterfeited drugs earlier. If not for NGOs and local units who are actively gathering more information, FDA, which has the main function to take down counterfeiting, would have never found out about the new methods. The authority does not have any idea on how the medicines are distributed in the country and on how it has been circulating between legitimate pharmacies.

Statistics show that on the Ghanaian market between August and September 2012. A total of 303 samples— 185 Oxytocin injection, 103 Ergometrine injection, and 15 Ergometrine tablets—were sampled from both public and private hospitals, clinics, medical stores, pharmaceutical outlets, and the informal sector across the ten regions of Ghana

In addition, the storage conditions recommended by the manufacturers of more than 50% of both the Oxytocin and Ergometrine injections were not consistent with recommendations in the official compendia. This indicates a lack of awareness of the appropriate storage conditions for these uterotonic products. The pharmacies involved also face complaints from critics. FDA, on the other hand, has promised to undergo proper implementation of jurisdiction if the companies are found to be involved in the distribution. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Patent: The First Line of Defense in Counterfeiting

Drug counterfeiting is one of the biggest issues encompassing a global scale. From local governments to private pharmaceutical giants to various international non-profit organizations, anti-counterfeiting campaigns have been founded. The internet has been penetrated so has been the local market units from legitimate pharmacies to gray markets to black ones. Large authorities such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) have already been involved, creating their own awareness programs and raid operations. Billions of dollar-worth of medicines was already confiscated from various physical manufacturers and online pharmacies. This goes to show that everybody is now taking this crucial issue more seriously.

Despite the best efforts, a lot of critics continue to question the late response of authorities to issues of counterfeiting. This, they say, has already been too late as thousands of people have already lost their lives from taking mislabeled, fraud, substandard, scammed and counterfeit medicines which contain little or no active ingredient at all but instead has hazardous substances such as chalk, paint or detergent.

“The persistence of this issue shouldn’t have been here if they have gotten security in the first place”, says Nicole Parker, head pharmacist and member of The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicine.

Big companies claim their security is legit, yet, their brands are the most likely to be counterfeited. For example, hundreds of counterfeit Tamiflu manufactured by Roche, one of the world’s largest and most trusted producers of medicines, have been seized in one of the legitimate pharmacies in Jakarta, Indonesia. When and how was the medicines distributed in one of the most anti-counterfeiting countries in the world, everybody is still trying to find out.

While the operations are still underway, the new medicines are being processed patents, the process which should have been implemented as the first step in countering production of fraud meds.

A patent allows the patentee to exclude third parties from making, using, importing, selling, or offering for sale patented products or methods of manufacture or use for a finite period of time, typically no more than 20 years from the date of initial patent filing. Patent protection must be obtained on a country-by-country basis. It is used to prevent others, for that geographical area and without the consent of the patent holder, from manufacturing and/or selling exact and close copies of the patented technology.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Role of Generic Medicines on the Proliferation of Counterfeit Medicines

Because of the lack of resources on some developing countries, most people resort to generic medicines which cost less than branded drugs. Moreover, many third world nations have no capacities and capabilities for pharmaceutical manufacturing which forces even authorities to allow generic copies of medicines to penetrate the market. Generic competition is one of the driving factors on the cost and quality reduction in many countries.

As defined by the Peterson Group, non-profit organization campaigning against proliferation of counterfeit medicines, generic medicines are pharmaceutical copies of drugs which are manufactured without license from the innovator companies and marketed after the expiry date of the patented or other exclusive rights. It is public obligation that the government provides affordable and legitimate medicine functions, however, with the incapability to find good resources, many governments fail in this respect.

Generic medicines are not entirely fraudulent per se but are mostly substandard.  Nonetheless, the threat can still be bona fide with what many health professions fear of: circumvention of health regulation, undercutting public confidence, and potentially providing a comparatively easy source of income to criminal elements.

Firstly, health regulations are mostly underrated on generic pharmacies starting from the fact that issuance of prescription are often ignored and neglected. Added to this fact is that generic pharmacies often employ unlicensed pharmacists who do not have enough knowledge on medical terminologies and lexicons.

The second main concern of authorities is that generic pharmacies may undercut public confidence. Faith and trust placed on medicine for safety and proper health treatment implementation is put into question. Even branded medicines being sold in generic pharmacies are doubted to be substandard.

Furthermore, patronization to legitimate medicines has dropped dramatically in the recent years. According to reviews, the cost and effectiveness of genuine medicines are discarded as mere marketing stance by most pharmaceutical companies as loyalties shift to generics which cost less and promise the same effects.

Lastly, generic medicines pave an easier way for criminal counterfeiting. 

Recent seizures of drug shipments in one of the hidden ports in outer Jakarta area in Indonesia have sparked concern that efforts to control counterfeits are a smokescreen to curb the sale of generics in the archipelago. Officials claimed generic drugs were counterfeit, placing efforts to adopt and enforce anti-counterfeit legislation in domestic laws as well as in bilateral and multilateral agreements into jeopardy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

RFID: Solution to Counterfeiting?

Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) is being eyed as the main answer to the endless issue of flourishing illegal business of drug counterfeiting across the world. With the widespread application of RFID, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expecting to trace purchased prescription drugs to as long as three years ago. This plan, however, is being faced with numerous complaints from pharmaceutical companies.

It expected that FDA’s plan of tracking all the medicines manufactured for the last three years would cost companies in the health care industry hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more. But it seems there is no stopping FDA in materializing their plans.

According to reviews, FDA has envisioned the plan when a report has been procured. With its strategy for combating the spread of counterfeit drugs, the FDA said it views the use of RFID tags and readers as the best way for health care companies, hospitals and pharmacies to ensure that medicines are legitimate. The agency envisions a program under which prescription drug shipments will be assigned unique electronic product codes and RFID devices will be used to record data about all supply chain transactions involving the products.

Feasibility studies are already being prepared for the proper implementation of the project while partnership with different governments in various countries is already underway. So far, active participation is being shown by Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Japan, Jakarta, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With the help of local NGOs, FDA is also expecting to penetrate even rural areas in each country. The Peterson Group, one of the non-profit organizations volunteering in this global campaign, has already set its roots in the Asia-pacific with an approval from World Health Organization (WHO).

On the other hands, critics of RFID which is also being used for other economic sectors such as manufacturing, supply chain, agriculture, transportation, healthcare, and services to name a few, are still facing issues on the effectiveness of this technology.

The problem is that decades after RFID technology was invented, and years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started touting it as the most promising way to authenticate drugs, RFID technology as an anti-counterfeiting technology remains just that: "promising"-yet far from proven. WHO has even stated that despite years of implementation of RFID, the number of fraud cases has not slowed down but continues to escalate. Some scammers are also suspected to counter RFID technology by creating their own system which can mask counterfeited products into what RFID considers as legit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Current Projects Counterattacking Counterfeit Drug Activities

Drug counterfeiting has been an issue since forever. Thousands of online sites have been raided and closed down after being traced as scams, selling fake medicines using fraudulent IP addresses. On some buy-bust operations, the products are found to be composed of chalk, paint or wax or basically anything powder which is used every day. These substandard medicines are suspected to have taken numerous lives and have flown unaccounted for.

Selling counterfeit medicines and medical devices often operate outside of jurisdictional borders, creating greater obstacles to successful anti-counterfeiting enforcement. For this reason, international cooperation and coordination is essential to creating solutions for the pharmaceutical counterfeiting problem.

Regional and global non-profit organizations starting from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the Local Government Units (LGU) in each community have finally become aware of the rampant spread of counterfeit medicines especially in third world countries. Africa and Asia are likely the most targets.

According to activity reviews of 2010, WHO and INTERPOL have led the effort to combat counterfeit medicines in Asia. Operation Storm was a multi-country operation combating counterfeit pharmaceuticals. It brought together the Customs, Drug Regulatory Agencies and the Police of each participating country: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The operation seized over $12M in counterfeit medicines and more than 16 million pills, including antibiotics, anti-malarials, contraceptives, anti-tetanus vaccines, aspirin and drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. In late 2009, Operation Storm II resulted in the seizure of 20 million counterfeit and illicit drug outlets. This year, the number has dwindled to a minimum as fewer countries have participated.

The Peterson Group, one of the non-profit organizations campaigning against counterfeit medicines, noted that only more or less 15 organizations have gathered in the annual event held in West Jakarta last August.

However, WHO has stated that this is not because other countries and NGOs have stopped their campaign. Instead, in their absence in the annual event, they are also hosting their own seminars and awareness programs in their own respective nations.

Take for example the in 1999 when the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) adopted a statement on counterfeit medicines during the Council meeting at the FIP Congress in Barcelona. Because of the growing and changing aspect of this major public health care issue, FIP has updated its Policy statement on counterfeit medicines in 2003 during its Council meeting at the FIP Congress in Sydney. This statement is a strong political message of the pharmacists‟ profession to support the fight against counterfeit medicines to protect the safety of their patients.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

WHO to Reward Whistleblowers on Drug Counterfeiters

World Health Organization (WHO) together with the local authorities of Indonesia held a buy-bust operation in a dilapidated building just outside Menteng in the city of Jakarta last September 25, 2015. 4,000 packages of generic Cialis and 200 boxes of Viagra were confiscated along with three counterfeiting machines, dirty syringes, and three pails of chalk.

The five personnel, all local, admitted to packaging and sealing these drugs to be picked up by a dealer known by “Sam” at dawn every day. As to where the products are distributed and how it is being supplied, the workers do not have knowledge of. Another man named Jafar is in charge of refilling their supplies every week while a woman named Alice comes by every two days to give their wages. They are not allowed to ask any further questions and are not able to do so as even if they, most of the times, work by themselves inside that building for their activities seemed to be monitored. One of their fellow workers was once killed while going home after he told a friend where he was working. A few days later, that friend was also dispatched. Living in fear for their lives and their families, they cannot complain nor tip the authorities of their illegal employment.

While these personnel spent their time in prison before their trial, their spokesperson they call Matti was killed in what the authorities say is caused by a prison fight. The others, now fearing more for their lives and unsure of their fate and security even within the prison walls refused to talk and testify. The government also takes full control of the situation and does not communicate well with non-profit organization anymore.

Once again, WHO would have to restart from scratch. Calling a conference with other non-profit organizations campaigning on the same cause, WHO has opened its willingness to offer a reward to anybody who has lead information on the continuous fraudulent operations on counterfeit medicines.

The Peterson Group, a fellow NGO who campaigns against the proliferation of counterfeited medicines            stated that a bounty of up to 20% of the value of any drugs being seized is available for anyone who can provide assistance. Private pharmaceutical companies also stated that they are to give their own rewards when generic copies of their own medicines are to be found.

Of course, counterfeit medicines are a global problem and both eastern and western pharmaceutical industries are equally disturbed by the presence of phony drugs in the supply chain.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Distribution of Counterfeit Medicines to Legitimate Pharmacies

Substandard medicines have been widespread on developing nations despite the strengthening security and laws against counterfeiting in these countries. Conflict arises between individuals and organizations on how and why this issue has been continuously prevailing. Its penetration and acceptance in the market have caused alarming number of sickness, complications and deaths in which ordinary citizens are starting to question the authorities. The complaints have been outpouring that World Health Organization, Food and Drug Authorities in each country and other non-profit organizations campaigning on the same cause have been involved.

Reasons have led to one and another. Politics, bribery to the government, the worsening case of poverty and the weak security system have been pointed as factors to its continued existence. One of the reasons which is noted by The Peterson Group, one of the NGOs exclusively working against counterfeited medicines, has caused extra agitation to the government, private pharmaceutical companies and consumers: trade within legitimate pharmacies and counterfeit fraudsters.

Trade in legal commerce has been overlooked with the common perception that legal businesses remain untouchable against counterfeit medicine scams.

United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) has been able to confirm the suspected loophole in private pharmacies’ products. In reviewing the methods used, the term parallel trading came to light.

The practice of parallel trading is legal in the commercial world; however, its application and contribution in the current issue have weighed the issue even further. At this rate, it is near impossible to trace the real culprit as the process involves at least 20 parties.

In a raid in one of the biggest counterfeit drug smuggling in Jakarta, Indonesia last 2013, fraudsters admit to following a cycle but they themselves hardly have any idea as to how the medicines managed to travel and be distributed.

The perpetrators explained that parallel trading involves a drug that is sold in a given country, which after having already moved through the various stages of the ordinary distribution chain, is acquired again by the major distributors and is entered into the parallel distribution chain. The product is then transferred to a new and more lucrative market by means of parallel intermediaries/distributors. The times a pharmaceutical product is transferred can be numerous. It is estimated that, on average, a drug which is entered into the parallel market may be subject to 20-30 intermediary transactions.

This extension of the distribution chain creates a problem of verifiability since some of the intermediaries do not need licensing to operate.

The issue is still under investigation. Our greatest fear is that by the time the real mastermind has been apprehended, it can be too late.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Deadly Fakes Around the World

The widespread of counterfeit medicines is inherently a dangerous problem. However, its distribution is not even in different parts of the world. Despite World Health Organization’s (WHO) effort to defeat counterfeiting in one stride, different measures are needed for each region. The loose punishment scheme in many countries and the strictness on others, the different strategies, transportation and distribution methods used and the variety of medicines being falsified are considered as hindering factors for full implementation of security measures. Although rich nations have fewer breakdowns on the issue, they are not exempted from the threat.

A plethora of evidences, methods and types were covered by WHO and have shared to other institutions campaigning on the same cause. One of them is The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization which has been advocating against the proliferation of counterfeit medicine since 2005. On its ten years, the group, which has formed members across South East Asia, Australia, the United States and United Kingdom, has gathered reports from different developing cities and nations. The following is the summary of each region’s brief background on counterfeiting medicines:

North America

Counterfeit medication is a recognized and well documented problem in the United States. One case in 1937 has featured more than a hundred deaths after consuming medicines containing the dangerous solvent diethylene glycol.

Some counterfeiters in the United States are even found to be using fraudulent connections to terrorism. WHO has also found that the profit from counterfeit medicines have been used to fund the famous terrorist group Hezbollah.


There are few fake and substandard drugs in most European countries for reasons similar to those articulated above for the United Sates: quality producers dominate the market, supply chains are generally well regulated, and officials provide strong oversight and strict enforcement when pharmaceutical standards are violated. Still, preventing fakes from entering or travelling through the two dozen European territories is a constant challenge for enforcement officials.


Cambodian Ministry of Health has released a statement stating that 13% of the nation’s medicines are fraudulent. Warnings on health precautions are already released by local government units and private pharmaceutical companies as most counterfeit medicines are found in informal and unlicensed units.


Counterfeiting in Indonesia has grown despite the warnings of death penalty as punishment. By 2008, 44% of medicines in the market are counterfeited, even sold in legitimate pharmacies. 11 men were arrested in the capital city, Jakarta for refilling syringes with water, forging expiration dates and repackaging. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Precautions and Warnings on Counterfeiting

Asia is famous to nearly all kinds of forgery and fraudulence. China leads the rest of the continent in bearing the name ‘fake’. Perhaps these accusations have their bearing. After all, the products which are counterfeited would trace back to illegal production companies in the region. Dirty politics and lax of security has had a lot to do with it, as so many bad reviews had pointed out.

Nevertheless, Asia, with more developing countries than developed ones, has had a lot of records in combating the issue at hand. The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeiting medicines notes that changes have been developing and plans have been integrated to prevent this issue from spreading. In fact, World Health Organization has summarized more legislations and suggestions on counterfeit combating as advised by many Asian members in the congress.

The following are possible measures in contending the problem:

•              National Government

The government, perhaps, has the most important role in stopping counterfeiting. With a stable policy and regulation, proper execution of security, there would be a good chance penalty can be imposed on fraudsters. Those in office have the power to enact rules and legislations which can help strengthen the campaign against spurious, falsely-labeled, falsified and counterfeit medicines. They can foster cooperation between different sectors of the government that play a role in the process. Medicine legislation should be formed and they should be the ones to ensure that counterfeit meds are confiscated and destroyed. United Kingdom has started their own government campaign but many critics say that developing cities who are also taking their own stand like Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore have too much politics to implement proper policies.

•              Consumers

Consumers also have their share of responsibilities. We cannot always complain and do nothing. We, as the people who would be directly affected by the effects of counterfeit medicines should be suspicious and cautious of our every purchase. As much as possible, do not buy from a peddler or in market places, do not trust large discounts and check if labels or packaging would hint distrustful information about them. Also, be aware of emergency numbers to dial in case you may encounter one.

•              Medical Organizations and Pharmaceutical Companies

Since there are issue and conflicts occurring between the government and private companies when it comes to disclosure of information, there would always be miscommunication. These companies should work closely with national law enforcement and not entirely conceal their own information to themselves.

Monday, September 21, 2015

WHO Warning Falls to Deaf Ears

It would have been better if World Health Organization has cautioned the blind and the deaf, they may have listened more but the ignorance of people to precautions and warnings has led to high mortality rate and worsening disease symptoms.

Using different media and even fellow non-profit organizations, WHO has rounded up most information both in developing and already developed countries? From the busy streets of New York to the heavy traffic in Jakarta, Indonesia, the information has been passed on. The organization also took advantage of the partnership with other institutions. The Peterson Group, an online non-profit society is one of the institutions avidly campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines in South East Asia. Along with numerous local groups campaigning for the same cause, a lot of developing Asian nations are already informed. Yet, there may be possible reasons for people to become unaware.

The variety of information makes compiling data a difficult task. Sources of information include historic data which can sometimes already be obsolete. This is one of the reasons why there is not much trust in the information given by WHO and the main details are oftentimes overlooked.

Another factor hindering information from being spread are the political powers moving behind their names and standing in society. Those who have the authority to inform may not have fully discussed the severity of the situation and may have not emphasized the impact of counterfeit medicines to one’s health. It may also be that the authority itself is behind fraudulent transactions, gaining profits from mafia groups and scammers.

Strengthening medicine regulatory authorities (MRAs), improving quality of production, and facilitating the availability of relatively inexpensive, good-quality anti-infective are likely to be key factors in the effectiveness of the information being responded to.

There is an urgent need for data of sufficient sample size with random sampling design to reliably estimate the prevalence of counterfeited medicines. Such data are vital to select appropriate interventions, assess their effectiveness, and follow changes through time. Recent literature has concentrated on poor-quality anti-malaria, but it is likely that other anti-infective medicines are also profoundly affected. We do not know how counterfeit and substandard medicines compare with respect to their impact. We also have little information on what proportion of patients or health workers are aware of the issues in different societies, and which interventions may be the most effective. Without the help of different sectors, these planned interventions may not come to realization.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Medicines, an Intellectual Property

Counterfeit, substandard and fake medicines pose a great risk. Counterfeited clothes, bags and accessories have economic effects, loss of profits and perhaps cause financial downfall. Employment and income which is supposed to be directed to the legitimate brand are being distributed to counterfeiters and imitations. However, the concern of brand owners are being disputed since counterfeited items are helping these brands market their name.

Counterfeit Medicines do not rock the same boat. Not only would the manufacturers lose economically. Fraudulence in this field also poses a great risk in health. The World Health Organization (WHO) which plays the main fortress of many organizations and causes against the widespread of counterfeiting medicines has highlighted the issue by decreeing different kinds of trump cards and bylaws. In the passing of time, while the panic withers away, fraudsters have also strengthened their strategies. They got fiercer, not even considering trademark issues and deceitfully duplicated brand after brand. Unlike the spreading market for clothes’ brands, counterfeited labels bring trust down and cause reputation to plummet.

According to reviews archived by The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, in 2003, the biggest conflict faced by authorities regarding protection of intellectual property rights is the agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) who both offers vague rules and statements against trademark infringement in medicines being exchanged internationally. A 2003 agreement loosened the domestic market requirement, and allows developing countries to export to other countries where there is a national health problem as long as drugs exported are not part of a commercial or industrial policy. Drugs exported under such a regime may be packaged or colored differently in order to prevent them from prejudicing markets in the developed world.

Many critics stated that there should be a clear line for differentiating normal cases of trademark infringement to counterfeiting which penalties for offenders apply. It is for the trademark owner to initiate infringement proceedings. However, for a number of reasons, developed countries, including Germany, USA and UK are opposed to extending criminal sanctions for infringement.

Developing cities have also participated in the agreement between WTO and TRIPS but they are given longer time for proper implementation. Surprisingly though, they have faired better in the adaption of sanctions. Jakarta, Indonesia and Bangkok, Thailand are both emphasizing their complaints against intellectual property rights as they have local medicine manufacturers in their stead.

However, it is a different issue for less developed countries. It has been argued that TRIPS implementation is far detrimental to these countries’ development. The flexibilities may not be drafted because of the lack of legal and technical expertise. It is yet to be determined when the extension of the transition to TRIP method happens on January 2016.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Warnings on the global boom of counterfeit medicines have been known to bring forth realization of the unwanted and dangerous business. Moreover, those who are often victimized are from developing nations but global awareness has been expected to reach even the most illiterate parts of regions through advanced technology. It is now a race on who would reach the market first: the warnings or the advancing fraudulent methods used by scammers.

According to The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization advocate in eliminating the production and distribution of counterfeit drugs, 80% of counterfeit medicines proportion has been dominating in some wholesale pharmaceutical companies in Africa. 

China still remains to be the largest distributor of counterfeit medicines, operating in almost 500 factories around the country. The number has been expected to increase over time. Far from what is also expected to developing nations, these counterfeited medicines still cause adverse effect and reactions and can still cause deaths despite advanced methodologies being practiced? 

In South East Asia, the weak implementation of law is still a prevailing issue. Despite the efforts of Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore to stop illegal smuggling of counterfeit medicines by putting warning signs at airports and implementing death penalty on anyone who breaks the law, transactions within these regions are still predominating. It makes it easier for smugglers in Indonesia since there is more than one entrance for inter-island transactions. 

In order to contain global scourge, the more advanced countries should assist less developed ones. Dynamics of these developing sources should be integrated with that of properly implemented nations. This problem cannot be eliminated if the supply-demand issues continue to hinder non-profit organizations, the government and the public to fully enforce proper solutions. 

Since there are more than concerns which should be done, International Policy Network of London has listed some possible solutions for this prevailing issue which causes thousands of deaths annually:

Adjudication of disputes over contracts should be simpler and cheaper, so that contracts may be more readily enforced.
Bureaucratic restrictions on doing business should be removed.
The manufacturers of brand goods should be able more effectively to protect their trademarks.
Most fundamentally, courts of law should be granted greater independence, so that their rulings are more impartial and less influenced by powerful vested interests.
The legislature should not have the power to interfere with judicial decisions.
The power of law enforcement agents should be curtailed and their actions subject to judicial review.
The actions of other government agents (e.g. regulators) should be subject to judicial review.
Regulation restricting the supply of medicines should be improved or scrapped. 
Governments should reduce taxes and tariffs on all medicines. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Common Ingredients of a Counterfeit Medicine

Counterfeit Medicines are rampant in many developing countries around the world.  The advancement of technology has also been taken advantage of by many fraudsters and scammers operating under illegal authorization and against the law. In as much as using technology being advanced, the ingredients that are being used in producing these counterfeit medicines are cheaper and what Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been warning about.

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against any use of counterfeit medicines in any forms of production, manufacture, importation, exportation and distribution features the known chemicals and substances included in most illegal drugs’ ingredients.

1.            Heavy Metals

a.            Mercury

Test results from a 2010 study shows 26% of sampling medicines purchased from fake online pharmacies contains heavy metal and toxins including mercury. An intake of this element can cause peripheral neuropathy, skin discoloration, and kidney dysfunction and memory impairment.

b.            Arsenic

Arsenic is found to be the cause of a death of a woman in 2006. It was found out that she ordered from an online pharmacy based in Canada and studies show a big amount of arsenic poison in her medicine.

c.             Uranium

Uranium is one of the most deadly heavy metal which is also used in nuclear bombs. Small doses can cause kidney dysfunction and urinary tract damage.

2.            Actual Poison

a.            Rat Poison

On the term itself, intake of these substances are already hazardous to your health. In one study of hundreds of Viagra counterfeit medicines in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2012, FDA has found large amounts of rat poison on all drugs. Even in doses as low as 1gram it can still cause diarrhea, vomiting, hair loss and even death.

b.            Antifreeze

Antifreeze was once substituted for glycerin killing 365 people in Panama, 88 children in Haiti and harming many more. Lethal doses as small as 1/3 of a teaspoon can cause liver and kidney failure.

3.            Household Items

a.            Wall Paint

This substance is mostly used by counterfeiters to add color to the drugs. Paint pigments may contain different kinds of heavy metals which can cause blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

b.            Floor wax

Floor wax is used to provide a nice sheen to mimic a medicine’s coating. This material contains formaldehyde which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and in extreme cases, death.

c.             Brick Dust

This is used by fraudsters to create a similar texture to real medicines. Brick dust contains poisonous heavy metals and chemicals.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Dangerous Business of Drug Smuggling

Illegal trade of medicines considered harmful to health without proper monitoring and prescription is an international issue and a long-time problem among many governmental institutions.

There are rampant reports on the trade of drugs such as cocaine and heroin. It has long been a frustrating feature and the government as well as the public has been in constant pursuit against its distribution. After years of attempt to combat the illegal drug trade, nations have realized cooperation among international actions is the only effective way to restrain the trade.

Africa and Asia have been victims of these trades because of loose security. Because of the worsening effect on each nation, many cities have taken extra precaution on the deals involving drugs and medications.

Indonesia is one example of one of the nation’s known to have the most secured policy when it comes to punishing fraudsters in this field. From Jakarta to other parts of the archipelago, capital punishment is the worst penalty sentenced to those found guilty of smuggling illegal drugs within any part of the country. Earlier this year, nine foreign and local individuals were executed through firing squad because of drug trafficking.

However, war on drugs not only involves the illegal importation of medicine.

Counterfeited medicines which are legally distributed in the market and prescribed by legitimate doctors but are made with fake materials can also harm many individuals. The number of circulating within and without the country is vague. Since there are little tools we can use to determine the legitimacy of these drugs, the percentage of getting it smuggled into a country is high.

According to The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization which advocates the elimination of any use, production and distribution of counterfeit medicines, many scammers are continuously trafficking counterfeited medicines in countries with little or no anti-counterfeiting equipment.

Since the scope of drug trafficking varies from one country to another, many nations are forced to face the issue individually despite international cooperation.

Many people think that the issue of drug smuggling will take a long time to defeat. Some even think that it can never be solved at all. What many people do not understand is that drug smuggling and any business related herewith is dangerous.

Let this be a warning: drugs destroy lives and communities, undermine sustainable human development and generate crime. Drugs affect all sectors of society in all countries; in particular, drug abuse affects the freedom and development of young people, the world’s most valuable asset. Drugs are a grave threat to the health and well-being of all mankind, the independence of States, democracy, the stability of nations, the structure of all societies, and the dignity and hope of millions of people and their families.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Knowing the Extent of Counterfeit Medicines in Asia

Counterfeiting medicines are now considered as bioterrorism as there is a widespread of accounts operating across the globe. There is also share of these reports in America and Europe and certain measures are already being implemented to prevent it from spreading. If you are seeking medications for health complaints in Asia, on the other hand, you must be aware of some countries in the region which are notorious for counterfeited meds that even legitimate pharmacies are oftentimes victims.

The extent of the problem is never known as Asia, obviously, is the largest continent with various cultures and security measures implemented in each country. There is never a definite number being presented and the statistics may fluctuate in every place.

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to the total obliteration of fraudulent acts regarding the manufacture, production, importation, exportation and distribution of counterfeited medicines along with other non-profit organizations, private institutions and government divisions is currently paving ways to measure the real extent of counterfeiting in the region.

Counterfeiting is considered the crime of the 21st century. As technology gets fiercer and security more lax scammers are becoming more fearless. The great concern is for those belonging to developing cities and nations. Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are of particular target-- peddlers of fake medication use older heroin and methamphetamine smuggling networks around the “Golden Triangle” to get their drugs across borders.

Jakarta, Indonesia and Bangkok, Thailand is another concern. Thankfully, laws in Indonesia are becoming stricter against illegal importation of counterfeit medicines. The only problem which remains to be one of the major issue in the archipelago is its geographical demographic which enables fraudsters to transfer these counterfeits from port to port without being detected.

World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released statements which states that 10-30 percent of medicines are estimated to be counterfeited. Everyone fears that these ambiguous figures are too broad to really know the extent of the problem. Many critics also say that the industry may be growing rapidly than its legitimate counterpart.

Drug counterfeiters not only defraud consumers, they also deny ill patients the therapies that can alleviate suffering and save lives. Increasingly well-organized counterfeiters coupled with sophisticated technologies have allowed criminals to profit from drug counterfeiting at the expense of Asian patients. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the definition of counterfeit or falsified medicines in Asia. Countries issuing regulations have their own definitions, making information exchange and anti-counterfeit strategies development difficult. The feat of knowing the extent of this issue is still ongoing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Antiretroviral Drugs Continues to Circulate in the Market

More than 35 million individuals are currently living with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) around the world. Many are opening out to the public with an aim to create awareness and serve as a warning to others but there are also individuals who choose to live in the cave as this disease is understandably embarrassing and degrading.

With the increasing number of peoples being treated with AIDS, many government bodies partnered with the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) for the increasing access to antiretroviral therapy (AVR).  Although protective and advanced measures are being adopted by many government offices, private institutions, non-profit foundations and public organizations, the widespread of counterfeit medicines are continuously increasing but less attention are being paid into it as more and more issues are being considered as prior importance.

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization battling against the illegal manufacture and distribution of counterfeit drugs is one of the team dedicated to eliminate the use of antiretroviral therapy in the black market, many of which are found to be composed of substances such as paint, chalk and many other compounds used in daily living.

Counterfeit Zidolan-N, a known drug used to counter HIV/AIDS is found to be released in great quantities in Kenya, Africa and Jakarta, Indonesia. Another drug, Truvada is said to be products of fraudulent manufacturers in the United Kingdom. These operations are already said to have been raided by the authorities but scam reports are continuously coming in as more and more people are continuously patronizing under the table sales of these drugs given that 240,000 of victims are under 15 years old. Most of them are without the difference of the real ones from frauds.

There may be reasons for the lack of access of legitimate, FDA-approved AVRs in the market. One of these is the fact that only 12.1 million individuals have been given access to real drugs, given that less developed countries are underprivileged without much focus and support from authorities and many more individuals living almost under the rock.

The cost of legitimate drugs is also one cause of purchasing the more affordable ones with little or no awareness for its real ingredients.

Lack of security is also one of the reasons of the widespread. In Indonesia, for instance: the archipelagic geography of the country provides open ports which enable fraudsters to transfer and import the drugs without being detected.

Everyone, everywhere, involved in the fight against AIDS wants there to be a cure. But until a cure is found, ARV represents our only form of life-saving treatment. We have done our part in the process but will continue to pursue our goal until a definite solution is found, hopefully, in the near future.

Monday, July 13, 2015

FDA Warns On More Counterfeit Cialis

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a warning on the personal importation of adulterated and counterfeit medicines continuously circulating in the market. With the help of private institutions, online websites and non-profit organizations which support the campaign against counterfeit medicines are now on full-force to know the source of this widespread of erectile dysfunction treatment which promises many but realizes none. Cialis is one of the products believed to dominate the market. Even black markets are currently under siege in search of fraudsters. In Jakarta, Indonesia, more than 20 stalls were closed down for further investigation.

The government is already being cautious on the strict implementation of rules against these illegal medicines because of the discovery of fraud Cialis back in 2008 in New Zealand which led to one death and up to 30 serious adverse and 59 other possible reactions. Victims had been verified to even reach Singapore. It may also be possible that there are more cases on the neighboring countries.

According to reports submitted to The Peterson Group, one of the non-profit organizations partnering with FDA, four products had been found to contain dangerous levels of prescription medicine to treat diabetes. All four products contain glibenclamide, a prescription medicine used to treat diabetes as well as prescription medicines used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Glibenclamide acts by lowering blood sugar levels and its use by consumers who do not have diabetes can produce serious side effects including coma and possible death.

It's important to note that there are no safety concerns with genuine Cialis products that are currently available on a prescription and obtained from a New Zealand pharmacy. The product sponsor, Eli Lilly, is concerned about this counterfeiting development and is working with New Zealand and international authorities to investigate the matter.

It may be possible that these products had reached your neighborhood. In this case, stop taking the product immediately. Contact a doctor immediately if you feel unwell. Even if you have not felt unwell, consult your doctor at the earliest opportunity.

Medsafe has noted for some time that counterfeit medicines have appeared at the border in consignments destined for individuals purchasing over the internet. In February this year Medsafe received the results of testing of some 27 products believed to be counterfeit that were seized at the border during the second half of 2007. Testing confirmed that all of the products contained an erectile dysfunction prescription medicine (either sildenafil or tadalafil). In many cases the products were contaminated with other medicine active ingredients indicating poor manufacturing quality or further evidence of fraud. The poor labeling and presentation of the products also indicated their quality was below the standards required in New Zealand. Countries of origin included: India, China and Thailand.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Anti-Counterfeiting Machineries

The Peterson Group with a set of individuals and experts aiming to stop the production, importation, exportation and usage of counterfeit medicines has partnered with various entities, public and private organizations as well as fellow non-profit institutes have developed machineries to know which medicine is counterfeited.
Hologram Machinery

Fortunately, there are methods developed to use in order for us to determine real from fake medicines. Although there are no significant proof yet on how these machines and process can be used and which ones can be the best option to distribute to the market. The following are ideas given by the World Health Organization (WHO):

1.            Holograms

Probably the most familiar overt feature is the “dove hologram”. Holograms and similarly optically variable devices can be more effective when incorporated with a tampered evident feature. However, some holograms are easily copied as a lot of scammers are also experts in technological advancement.

2.            Invisible Printing

Using special inks, invisible markings can be printed with some substrate, and which only appear in under certain conditions like UV light or IR illumination. They can be formulated to show different wavelengths and colors. This kind of new technology is currently being studied in Jakarta, Indonesia.

3.            Laser Coding

This method comes with a very expensive cost. However, the results can be very impressive and would be very hard to simulate. Laser codes can be applied to cartons and packaging, plastic and metal components.

4.            Chemical Taggants

Trace chemicals can only be done with special and unique devices. Also, it can only be detected by highly specialized reagent systems, but not normally detectable by conventional analysis.
Bar codes
5.            Bar Codes

Bar codes are one of the most conventional method of uniquely branding some medicine packaging and distinguish it from fraud ones. The so-called nano technologies allow microscopic application onto available tablets.  However, there are also a lot of techniques done by scammers that can duplicate bar codes.

6.            Mass Sterilization

Serialization includes the processes of generating, encoding, and verifying the unique identity of individual physical items. Without mass serialization, the authenticity and validity of the pedigree relates only to the lot number consisting of thousands of bottles. However, a specific bottle of a particular drug cannot be authenticated

7.            Data Carriers

Data carriers are graphical systems used to convey the product identifiers and associated information in computer and/or human readable format. A mark, tag, or label applied at the source represents them. Computer readable formats include linear and two dimensional (2D) bar codes and radio frequency identifier (RFID) tags.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Counterfeit and Substandard

In a sense, both meanings of counterfeit and substandard medicines are the same in medical definitions. By the term itself, substandard products are not able to meet the level set by the authorities and are often results of human error, negligence, insufficient finances and/or counterfeiting.

The existence of these fraudulent acts is overwhelming that the World Health Organization (WHO) has formed an alliance with legitimate global partners to defeat its increasing numbers. With private organizations, non-profit organizations, public and government institutions and concerned individuals, different awareness campaigns are continuous and active operations are underway.

According to reports gathered by The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization with the same agenda, the existence of drug counterfeiting has already been prevalent in the late 1980s until it became viral and widespread with the adaption of technological advancement. Online pharmacies became the venue for more illegal deeds. Those rejected by legitimate pharmacies are being sneaked out of factories and copied, manufactured in tons of doses with ingredients already replaced by lethal ingredients. Substandard medicines became rampant and millions of people are victimized.

As easier access to the internet comes to its peak, orders were made online and deliveries with a different or no return address became the one of the primary strategies of scammers and they do it with ease.

Because of the lack of enforcement and attention, it took time for institutions to acknowledge this issue as one of the most serious conflict to be taken account of. The efficacy of imported medicines and locally manufactured drugs circulating within developing cities are not guaranteed. The black markets of Bangkok, Thailand, Jakarta, Indonesia and the suburbs of Tokyo, Japan became the haven of these fraudsters, selling behind the shadows of authorities.

Subsequently, smuggling and illegal importation of drugs are often rife. Substandard and counterfeit drugs are then not only sold in these countries but also exported or re-exported.

The situation is worsened by the fact that medicines exported from many industrialized countries are not regulated to the same level as those domestically consumed, while export of drugs to developing countries via free trade zones is increasing. Relabeling of products to mask details of their origin is also known to occur.

Hopefully, both the government and the private organizations and pharmaceuticals find a way to cross the border of limitation and laws to create standards against counterfeit medicines. WHO has already made its mark, so is the FDA. When are we going to start fighting against the trade of substandard medicines and counterfeited drugs?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dangers when Buying Medicines Online

Online pharmacies are already rampant in the vast expanse of the internet world. With this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a fiercer challenge to know which of these hundreds of pharmacies are legitimate. 

According to the research of the Peterson Group, an online community against the illegal manufacture, importation, exportation and distribution of counterfeit drugs, these drugs contain little to almost nothing of the healing ingredient. Instead, it is composed of absurd mixture of chalk, bird feces, paint and ordinary things used in daily activities. These medicines may also be proven fatal to human condition and can induce ailments to worsen. Warnings and cautions are being campaigned worldwide to prevent civilians from being scammed by these websites. 

Signs of a trustworthy website

• It has a physical address and should be visible to any search engine directories and citations. Video reviews or testimonials can help boost the website’s credentials although it cannot be a hundred percent assurance. 
• It’s licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website is operating. A list of these boards is available at the website of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
• It has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
• It requires a prescription for prescription medicines from your doctor or another health care professional who is licensed to prescribe medicines.
• It provides contact information and allows you to talk to a person if you have problems or questions.

Signs of an unsafe website

• It sends you drugs with unknown quality or origin. Cases of these include that of a Canadian website selling medicines in Jakarta, Indonesia. When the package was received, the return address was in Beijing, China. Beware of websites having vague addresses and unfamiliar manufacture name.
• It gives you the wrong drug or another dangerous product for your illness.
• It doesn’t provide a way to contact the website by phone.
• It offers prices that are dramatically lower than the competition.
• It may offer to sell prescription drugs without a prescription—this is against the law!
• It may not protect your personal information.

Before you get any new medicine for the first time, talk to a health care professional such as your doctor or pharmacist about any special steps you need to take to fill your prescription. 

Any time you get a prescription refilled:
• check the physical appearance of the medicine (color, texture, shape, and packaging)
• check to see if it smells and tastes the same when you use it
• alert your pharmacist or whoever is providing treatment to anything that is different