For years, the authorities have applied different kinds of safety and protective measures to obliterate drug counterfeiting in the list of major issues in the world. The worsening proliferation of drug fraudulence has prompted the authorities to aggressively undertake the problem. Dozens of raid operations have already been held across continents just to pin down the group responsible. World Health Organization (WHO), different health ministries and Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) from different countries have already been on the watch along with Non-profit organizations such as the Peterson Group, Impact and others. But their task is far from simple.
It is highly difficult to track counterfeiters — they might use several different planes to transit a single consignment. Batches are repackaged into smaller bundles at each stopover to thwart law enforcement agencies. In one case, the drug which was delivered to a customer in Nebraska through the internet was traced to have come from Toronto, Canada which had been moved from Dubai, smuggled from Jakarta, Indonesia and had been manufactured in China.
It is even more challenging to spot fakes from real ones. Counterfeiters seem to take extra effort into perfecting their packaging and product. Tiniest details including bar codes are even traced significantly from real ones that it can even pass code scanners.
While the battle is getting fiercer and the complaints increasing, specific countermeasures are being taken by the pharmaceutical industry which includes overt features, such as holograms, covert features, such as digital watermarks, and initiatives that track and trace products.
Just as suspected, counterfeit drugs are mostly available in black markets. In third world and poor countries, these black markets can be seen on the streets. In Africa and the Middle East, for instance, rows of kiosks show various medicines ranging from erectile dysfunction medicines to drugs claiming cure for cancer. However, the authorities cannot entirely take down street vendors as some of them are not entirely fraudulent.
Michael Deats, a former head of enforcement at the MHRA, who now works for the WHO’s department of essential medicines and health products says, “Some pharmaceutical company sales representatives sell their wares in street markets to meet sales targets ‘which adds a certain legitimacy to these street-markets’”. Fraudsters take this chance to merge their own fake products with legitimate ones.
Drug counterfeiting is becoming a lucrative business and we can expect that the people behind this illegal practice are much more experienced in tricking the law than we can possibly imagine.