Counterfeit Drug Incident Encyclopedia

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Criminals make billions of dollars creating and selling counterfeit medications around the world. These drugs can be difficult to detect, but detecting them is important, because counterfeits can be a death sentence for the patients who end up taking them. Fake drugs deny patients effective treatment, promote drug resistant strains of diseases, and may cause reactions because of undeclared drug ingredients or toxic poisoning.

The global market in counterfeit and substandard drugs is highly lucrative and thrives in areas with weak regulation and enforcement of drug laws. In 2013, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America as much as 30 percent of available drugs are fraudulent, and that the trafficking of unsafe or ineffective medicine is “a multi-billion dollar activity.”

At the same time, counterfeit medicines such as cancer treatments, cosmetic injectables, IUDs, painkillers and others, have made their way into the United States. Since 2012, there have been a series of high-profile federal prosecutions of distributors evading the closed, secure drug supply chain and selling dangerous black market medicines to American doctors and patients. More than 1200 medical practices have been warned that they have been buying unregulated imported drugs.

Patients around the world can stay safe from counterfeit drugs only as long as their country’s drug regulatory agencies sufficiently monitor and test medications.  American patients are kept safe by rigorous laws enacted by Congress and implemented by US Food and Drug Administration, which protects the safety of our medications by requiring inspection and verification of sources from manufacture through delivery to the patient.