Pfizer and NABP Set Up Campaign Against Counterfeit Drugs
Pfizer and NABP have linked up to draw attention to the risks associated with counterfeit drugs and teach patients learn how to safely buy medicines online.
Prescription medicines are among the most counterfeited consumer goods. The drugs giant and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) noted that worldwide sales of counterfeit medicines were estimated to exceed $75 billion last year, an increase of 90% since 2005. Last year, one in six Americans purchased medicines on the internet, “potentially exposing them to harmful counterfeits”.
Patrick Ford, Pfizer’s senior director for global security in the Americas, noted that counterfeit medicines “are often produced in unsanitary conditions by people without any medical or scientific background”. He noted that “law-enforcement officials have found fake medicines being made in bathrooms and outdoors in the vicinity of farm animals.”
Exposure to counterfeit medicines can have serious consequences, either because they include dangerous substances, such as rat poison, or because they do not include the correct approved amount of active pharmaceutical ingredient, which means patients may not get the intended benefits.
Adding to the danger, patients who buy medicines from illegitimate online pharmacies are at risk of financial fraud and identity theft when they share their payment details and other personal information with criminal counterfeiting networks.
Pfizer has confirmed the presence of counterfeit versions of its drugs in “at least 101 countries”, notably its erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (sildenafil). In one project, the company purchased and tested Viagra from 26 pharmacy websites that appeared in the top results for “buy Viagra” on two major search engines and found that all of them were operating illegally and 81% were selling counterfeit Viagra.
NABP’s executive director, Carmen Catizone, commented that “counterfeiters who sell fake medicines online prey on ingrained online buying behaviour, in which consumers disregard warning signs, and prioritise price and convenience”.
Among Pfizer and NABP’s response to the problem, they have set up a new YouTube channel dedicated to protecting consumers online, while Pfizer Global Security will implement takeovers of websites once used by counterfeiters to sell fake versions of their medicines.