Ministry of Health Assistant Director Mazlan Ismail cites high profits and mild punishments for drug counterfeiting as the cause of this global shift as Malay government considers increasing sanctions for drug counterfeiting crime.

Malaysia’s Sun Daily spoke with Ministry officials and pharmaceutical manufacturing representatives on the occasion of “The Hard Facts Media Workshop, organized by Pzifer Asia.

According to Assistant Director Ismail, the current penalty for manufacturing counterfeit medicines in Malaysia is either a fine or jail time of up to three years, at the discretion of the court. A new pharmacy bill proposed would ask for a minimum one year mandatory jail sentence for first offenders.

Said Pfizer Asia Senior Director, Scott Davis “The profit margin in the counterfeit medicine business is extremely high. Studies have shown that if $1,000 is invested in making heroin, it can produce profits of around $20,000, but if the same amount is used to produce counterfeit medicines, the profits can reach $450,000.”

Unlike illegal drugs however, most consumers who buy counterfeit medication are under the impression that they are buying drugs that are safe. They are completely unaware of the dangers they could face from counterfeits.

The stark difference between penalties for drug trafficking and penalties for counterfeit drug trafficking are dramatic in most countries of the world. In the United States, typical illicit drug trafficking penalties start at a minimum 10 year mandatory sentence. Counterfeit drug trafficking, by contrast, is treated as a less serious crime by the courts. Drug counterfeiters in the US have recently been sentenced to 1 year, 2 years, and in some cases, probation.

By S. Imber