The sale of counterfeit prescription drugs is neither harmless nor insignificant. Today, the illicit sale of counterfeit prescription drugs is outpacing the sale of street drugs as many dealers are finding it to be “more profitable” and “less risky.” Counterfeit prescription drugs and street drugs both endanger lives, yet, counterfeit drug sellers face significantly less penalties while making much more money (as much as 2,000 times the profit of crack or heroin). This is a tremendous public health concern around the world and on our domestic front.

Liang (sm) Bryan A. Liang, MD, PhD, JD  

The sale of counterfeit prescription drugs is neither harmless nor insignificant.  Today, the illicit sale of counterfeit prescription drugs is outpacing the sale of street drugs as many dealers are finding it to be "more profitable" and "less risky."  Counterfeit prescription drugs and street drugs both endanger lives, yet, counterfeit drug sellers face significantly less penalties while making much more money (as much as 2,000 times the profit of crack or heroin). This is a tremendous public health concern around the world and on our domestic front.

One has to wonder, how are drug counterfeiters able to evade harsh punishments?  Unfortunately, much of the problem revolves around weak international laws that do not effectively punish counterfeit drug dealers.  Further the widespread sale of counterfeit prescription drugs via "online pharmacies" makes it difficult to pinpoint the true source of the dealer's counterfeit prescription drugs-and hard to reach when trying to prosecute.

Recently, Congress passed the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO IP) Act of 2008 (S. 3225), which increased the penalties for counterfeiting offenses that endanger public health and safety.  This type of legislation is a great step towards limiting the sale of counterfeit prescription drugs; however, there is still much to be done in terms of equalizing the severity of punishments with these two very similar offenses.  The Partnership for Safe Medicines’ (PSM) International Principles for Drug Safety advocates increasing international cooperation to best prosecute prescription drug counterfeiters.  For more information on these Principles or the work of the PSM, visit www.safemedicines.org .