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Anti-counterfeiting held back by self-interest & politics

By Nick Taylor , 29-Nov-2010
Last updated on 29-Nov-2010 at 10:53 GMT

Narrowly defined pharma self-interest and lack of coordinated political effort means, despite the best effort of some, the problem of counterfeiting may be worsening.

Anti-counterfeiting initiatives and technologies have gained prominence in recent years but political efforts have, to date, “generated far more heat than light”, according to a speaker at AAPS 2010.

Speaking at a mini-symposium Roger Bate, the Legatum Fellow in global prosperity at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said a lack of coordinated and dedicated effort is hindering anti-counterfeiting efforts.

On a basic level, the lack of a universally accepted definition of what a counterfeit is underpins many problems. Also, different views on the seriousness of counterfeiting leads to countries having very different punishments, ranging from fines to execution, making extradition impossible.

The practical implications of these differences were explained by another mini-symposium speaker, Aline Franco of Interpol. Franco said an important aspect of Interpol’s work is educating local police about why counterfeits are important and within their remit.

Different outlooks

On a global level different outlooks and interests, which are often influenced by domestic pharma industries, can be a source of friction. For instance, focus on intellectual property protection (IPP) by Western governments and companies can antagonise other countries, said Bate.

Detention of Indian generics in European ports, coupled to the drafting of legislation in Kenya and Uganda, has given countries reason to believe western anti-counterfeiting efforts are at least partly motivated by desire to strengthen IPP.

As a result these mid-income emerging nations have sustained a largely illogical campaign against nearly all efforts to combat fake drugs, including unfairly targeting WHO's (World Health Organization) efforts against counterfeit medicines”, said Bate.

The need for international cooperation is recognised by Interpol which coordinates the Operation Pangea anti-counterfeiting effort. Building on this, Franco said Interpol wants to have closer relationship with the US Pharmacopeia (USP), who also had a speaker at the mini-symposium.

International convention

Bate said a WHO-sponsored international convention to tackle counterfeiting is needed. By bringing all nations together in a transparent process focused on public health Bate believes a reasonable consensus document can be achieved.

In Bate’s opinion the convention should agree definitions for falsified medicines, push for similar offences and reasonably equivalent punishments in each jurisdiction and focus on improving public health.

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