Abstract. Varying prices for medicines create incentives to move products from one market to another in an effort to arbitrage the difference; this is known as parallel trade.  Nevertheless, this situation allows nefarious individuals to introduce counterfeits into the drug supply due to weaknesses in detection.  Both developed and developing countries around the world experience this phenomenon. 

The United States has so far been relatively insulated from such effects, but through potential legalized importation and illegal parallel trade through Internet purchases, the risk that the European Union has experienced may threaten the United States.  Unfortunately, efforts to permit parallel importation of drugs into this country, such as under the Pharmaceutical Market and Drug Safety Act, do not adequately address safety and security issues of parallel trade. 

The vulnerabilities of the U.S. system, and the lessons from regions such as the European Union which has permitted parallel trade in pharmaceuticals, indicate that a multidisciplinary policy strategy involving at least a public health campaign, reporting system, increased penalties for counterfeiting, and technology investment must be engaged before any parallel trade in medicines is permitted.  Otherwise, the safety and security of the U.S. medicine supply will assume the weaknesses and risk that other regions experience.

Read “Parallel Trade in Pharmaceuticals: Injecting the Counterfeit Element into the Public Health”