Is it Safe For Americans to Order Life-Saving Medicine From Online Pharmacies Overseas?


Click image to download G-8 Infographic (pdf)

The countries of the Group of 8 (G8) have begun to work together to try and fight the global scourge of counterfeit medications. Their efforts are important, as most of the G8 member countries are having their own problems with counterfeit drug crime.

In May 2013 leaders from the G8 countries agreed “to exchange information on rogue internet pharmacy sites in accordance with national law and share best practices on combating counterfeit medical products.” In June 2013 the G8 issued a report on the outcomes of this and other commitments.

Of the countries that are part of the G8, Canada is the preferred home identity of fake online pharmacy crime, reports Legitscript. Though most of the fake online pharmacies are merely distribution offices for fake drugs made in the cheapest markets worldwide, many illegal websites profess to sell Canadian drugs. In the most recent Pangea investigation of fake online pharmacies, 4,000 of the 18,000 being investigated were tied in some fashion to Canada, according to the G8 report.

In the United States, counterfeit drug crime is on the rise, with 350 doctors having received warnings from the FDA concerning their business dealings with foreign suppliers of counterfeit drugs, reports the FDA.

The United Kingdom experienced one of the largest counterfeit drug incidents on record, when over 70,000 fake prescription drugs were discovered in the secure supply chain, and more than 30,000 doses remain unaccounted for, reports the BBC.

France’s port city of Le Havre was the scene of the 2012 confiscation of 1.2 million doses of fake aspirin hidden in tea reports the Associated Foreign Press. Though puzzling from a cost perspective, it illustrated clearly that drug counterfeiters are willing to fake any drug.

In 2010, Germany found that over 100 pharmacies were offering for sale illegally imported and counterfeit cancer medication. The drugs were compounded from illegally imported ingredients that turned out to be fake. To date it is unknown whether or not these fake cancer drugs made into pharmacies in other countries, reports EuroPharma Today.

G8 member country Russia is noteworthy as the home of Glavmed, a pharmaceutical affiliate network whose members specialize in posing as Canadian online drug stores. Research by Krebs on Security found that almost 50% of the Glavmed fake pharmacies were also sources of the top three fake antivirus scams.

To learn more about global drug counterfeiting crimes, and the technological, research, and law enforcement efforts to combat them, join us October 24th in Washington DC for the 2013 Interchange. We are pleased to have Scott Ballman, a 28 year law enforcement veteran who is now the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) Technical Expert for IP Program – North America. He assumed this position after retiring as Deputy Assistant Director of ICE-HSI. Mr. Ballman will be speaking on efforts to keep international counterfeits away from American patients on the Overview of New Developments in International Cooperation.

By S. Imber