OBJECTIVES: The size of the market for counterfeit drugs throughout the world is considerable. Many cases of health impairment due to counterfeits have been reported. The market share of counterfeits in drug markets in developed countries is smaller than that in developing countries. However, the size of the market for counterfeits of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5Is) used as anti-erectile-dysfunction drugs is not small. The purpose of the present study was to analyze the health impairment risk of taking the counterfeit PDE5Is and the convenience of obtaining the counterfeits in Japan, using an economic methodology in order to work out countermeasures for reducing the health impairment risk. METHODS: Information was obtained by interviewing employees of pharmaceutical and chemical corporations in Japan.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The size of the market for counterfeit PDE5Is in Japan was recently estimated to be about 2.5 times larger than that of genuine PDE5Is. The price of the counterfeits in their market is reported to be nearly equal to that of the genuine PDE5Is. An outbreak of severe hypoglycemia among users of counterfeit PDE5Is containing an antidiabetic drug in Singapore was reported in 2008, and seven patients remained comatose as a result of prolonged neuroglycopenia. Four of them subsequently died, so the health impairment risk due to counterfeit PDE5Is should not be ignored. In order to obtain a genuine PDE5I in Japan, a patient must be examined and have a prescription written at a medical institution, and buy it at a dispensing pharmacy. Focusing on the health impairment risk due to counterfeit PDE5Is and the convenience of obtaining the counterfeits in Japan, we analyzed the effects on the prices and quantities of PDE5Is in the market from demand and supply curves, using an economic methodology. From the analysis, it was shown that the health impairment risk due to the counterfeits is underestimated in the market in Japan. Physicians should warn their patients not to buy counterfeit PDE5Is, and when they write a prescription for purchasing genuine PDE5Is, should inform their patients of the severe health problems that occurred in Singapore.
CONCLUSIONS: The present economic analysis indicates that the health impairment risk due to counterfeit PDE5Is is underestimated in the market in Japan. Clarification of the underestimation of the severe health impairment risk due to counterfeits is important.