Fake Drugs are a Global Problem

The counterfeit drug trade has reached global proportions, and solving the problem needs a global approach.

So says an editorial in this week’s The Lancet.

While the Avastin announcement last week raised lots of concern and media attention, the issue of counterfeit drugs isn’t new. In 2009, the European Union seized 34 million fake pills in just two months, including antibiotics, cancer drugs, and sildenafil (Viagra). Counterfeit medicines are a problem for both low and high income countries and can seriously hurt patients.

In January the FDA warned healthcare providers not to buy injectable cancer medications from “direct-to-clinic” promotions or non-verified sources. Such drugs, says the FDA, put patients at risk.

The FDA tells healthcare providers who are responsible for purchasing cancer drugs for their patients:

Health care providers are reminded to obtain and use only FDA-approved injectable cancer medications purchased directly from the manufacturer or from wholesale distributors licensed in the United States.

The Lancet concludes,

The fight against counterfeit drugs must be strengthened without further delay. It needs consensus among all countries and interested parties, and requires wise and bold leadership from the World Health Organization (WHO). An indispensable goal of the campaign is ensuring the availability of genuine and affordable essential medicines in developing countries.

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