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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

European experts: Counterfeit medicines more lucrative than heroin trade

Criminalising the manufacture of fake medicines will help to curb a global trade now more lucrative than heroin trafficking, according to the Council of Europe.

The intergovernmental human rights organisation wants its 47 member states to ratify a treaty against counterfeit medical products which it will unveil in Istanbul next November.

The Council of Europe (CoE) says fake anti-coagulation drugs have already been used on British patients. There are concerns that unwitting patients may also be taking adulterated antibiotics, cancer treatments, anti-psychotic drugs, cholesterol lowering treatments and treatments for erectile dysfunctions.

“This treaty offers a comprehensive approach to tackling a crime which threatens public health and public health care systems,” said a spokesman. “Counterfeit medicines are more lucrative than heroin. It is a vile crime to fraudulently provide patients with products that don’t work.”

The move against the fake medicine industry began with a conference in Basel on 15 -16 April.

The conference marked growing worldwide concern that health care systems, particularly in developing countries, are increasingly vulnerable to the mass entry of counterfeit medical products.

Experts are also worried that the trend towards self-treatment has flooded the internet with medicines produced without any controls, tests or authorisation.

The Council of Europe believes that its treaty, the first global convention against ‘medicrime’ will strike at the heart of an international commerce with high returns.

Counterfeiters are attracted by the huge profits available. They are also encouraged by low detection rates, lengthy prosecutorial procedures and the comparatively light penalties currently imposed by governments.

The treaty, open to all governments, encourages cooperation among law enforcement agencies, customs, health professionals and the judiciary.

It introduces tougher sanctions against counterfeiters and a more effective pursuit of counterfeiters across international borders.

The CoE spokesman added: “Counterfeit medicines break the relationship of trust between patient, doctor and pharmacist.

“Patients are vulnerable. They trust that medicines will help. Counterfeiting disrupts the whole health care system. Criminalisation increases the efectiveness of justice and the protection of public health.”


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