The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has announced that it will take an active part in helping countries fight drug counterfeiters in a growing alarm over fake drugs impact on preventable deaths and super bugs.
Says UNODC, approximately $1.6 billion worth of medication in Africa and Asia alone is being faked by growing criminal organizations.
“Affecting both developed and developing regions, the production and trafficking of these illicit goods is increasingly placing lives at risk across the world as well as spurring criminal operations,” says UNODC.
30% of medicines in Latin America, Asia and Africa are fake, according to the World Health Organization, but up to 60% of anti-infective medications in parts of Asia and Africa are counterfeits. And counterfeit medication crimes growing in the EU, with more than 3,200 attempts to distribute counterfeits detected alone in 2008.
At last month’s Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna, delegates requested UNODC, in close collaboration with other UN bodies and international organizations such as the World Health Organization, World Customs Organization and INTERPOL, assist countries in policing the counterfeit drug crime organizations exploiting their citizens.
Executive Director Yury Fedotov wants great attention placed on fake drugs. “Fraudulent medicines offer organized criminal groups a high return commodity with relatively low risks, ultimately at the expense of the health of unsuspecting people. These counterfeit goods indiscriminately kill, depriving the poorest of lifesaving medicines and leading to countless deaths.”
Says UNODC, “Beyond the direct impact on the victims, substandard medicines can, amongst others, also fuel microbial resistance. Health experts have warned that each under-medicated patient becomes an evolutionary vector though which ‘superbugs’ can develop, posing a global threat to public health.”
Organized criminal networks are distributing fake medicines in regions with weak legal and regulatory frameworks and inefficient justice systems in traditional market places and over the internet.