Counterfeit medicines are a serious problem afflicting some 90 countries worldwide, and they kill an estimated 700,000 people annually. The key to fighting the “pandemic” of counterfeit drugs is building partnerships among drug companies, pharmaceutical trade groups, law enforcement and customs officials worldwide.
Rubie Mages, the director of strategic planning for global security at the U.S. drug manufacturer Pfizer, revealed, at the 2010 U.S.-Africa Private Sector Health Conference, organized by the Corporate Council on Africa, on October 6 in Washington, that since 2004 her company alone has seized more than 62 million doses of counterfeit medicines worldwide, before those medications could be passed off to consumers by unscrupulous pharmacies and retailers.
Counterfeiting is a crime of “fraud and deceit,” Mages said, and counterfeiters — motivated by pure greed — see their enterprise as high-profit and low-risk. She said counterfeit drugs are often shipped to their final destinations via a complex route to try to throw off any law enforcement bodies that might be tracking the shipments. “There are instances where tablets going from Mauritius to Seychelles went by way of Paris, obviously not a direct route,” just to throw off authorities.
In another case, she said, counterfeit drugs manufactured in China were secretly shipped to Hong Kong, then to Dubai, then to the United Kingdom and on to the Bahamas — all in an attempt to bypass customs and law enforcement authorities.