More than a decade has passed since the pharmaceutical industry first alerted governments, law enforcement agencies and aid organisations to the presence of counterfeit medicines in some of the world's poorest countries. Among early victims of this atrocious trade were several hundred children in Haiti, Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, who died of kidney failure after swallowing paracetamol syrup adulterated with a toxic solvent. At the time this warning went largely unnoticed, but new research into the fake drug business demonstrates that the problem is reaching epidemic proportions. So alarmed is the World Health Organisation that it is to create a high-powered task force to tackle the organised crime gangs responsible.
18 September 2006