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Fighting the global menace of fake medicines

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    Patients need to be confident that their medicines are safe. The production and distribution of pharmaceuticals is a robustly controlled activity which offers peace of mind to the public.

    Yet organised crime networks seek to exploit patients by selling counterfeit or falsified medicines. In a globalised world, fighting pharmaceutical crime requires a collective effort from industry and from law enforcement agencies.

    That is why UCB, along with 28 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has partnered with INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organisation to more effectively tackle the problem of medical product counterfeiting.

    As part of a landmark three-year agreement, INTERPOL will create a Pharmaceutical Crime Programme to enhance the law enforcement community’s response to pharmaceutical crime (online and retail) through stronger partnership development.

    It will focus on the prevention of all types of pharmaceutical crime including branded and generic drug counterfeiting, as well as the identification and dismantling of organised crime networks linked to this illegal activity.

    An essential part of the program is to raise public awareness of the dangers of fake drugs, particularly for people buying medicines online. The World Health Organization estimates that in more than 50% of cases, medicines purchased over the Internet from illegal sites that conceal their physical address have been found to be counterfeit.

    In 2012, Operation Pangea V, an INTERPOL-supported initiative spanning 100 countries aimed at disrupting the organised crime networks behind the illicit online sale of medicines, resulted in some 80 arrests and the worldwide seizure of 3.75 million units of potentially life-threatening medicines worth USD $10.5 million.

    Pharmaceutical crime can include the manufacture, trade and distribution of fake, stolen or illicit medicines and medical devices. It encompasses the counterfeiting and falsification of medical products, their packaging and associated documentation, as well as theft, fraud, illicit diversion, smuggling, trafficking, and money laundering.

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