Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche and 26 other large pharmaceutical companies will provide about $5.85m (3.5m Euros) over three years to fund an Interpol initiative to combat pharmaceutical counterfeits and crime.
The initiative announced Tuesday will create the Pharmaceutical Crime Programme to enhance law enforcement efforts on organized pharmaceutical crime and reduce branded and generic drug counterfeiting.
Roger Bate, an economist and expert on counterfeit drugs at the American Enterprise Institute, told in-Pharmatechnologist that the support of the pharmaceutical industry for Interpol is encouraging and could be a sign that the industry will be more receptive to transparency on counterfeits.
“It’s good to see that [the large pharmaceutical companies] are recognizing they can’t just do it on their own,” Bate said. “There seems to be an increasing willingness from people in the drug industry that they can work with honest intermediates,” such as Interpol.
And although the amount of funding for the initiative isn’t too considerable, Bate said he thinks it “could go a long way” in terms of facilitating the exchange of information on counterfeiters and training regulators in the field.
Interpol said that the programme will specifically raise public awareness of the dangers of fake drugs, particularly for people buying medicines online. The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that in more than 50 per cent of cases, medicines purchased online from illegal sites that conceal their physical address have been found to be counterfeit.
“Both brand-name and generic pharmaceuticals are susceptible to counterfeiting, putting patient lives at risk,” said Haruo Naito, president and CEO of Eisai. “This is why we have joined our colleagues across the biopharmaceutical industry to partner with Interpol and expand the work of its Medical Product Counterfeiting and Pharmaceutical Crime Unit.”
Problems in India Remain
Despite the success in advancing public initiatives, there are still some in the developing world who claim that the counterfeit industry is an exaggeration that is being perpetuated by large pharmaceutical companies, Bate said.
He added that a number of countries that were historically opposed to such initiatives, such as Brazil and China, are coming around on their scepticism of counterfeit production. For instance, China’s SFDA just increased its reward offerings for reporting on illegal drug production.
But officials in India seem reluctant to take that same step. Bate said the “narrow and myopic” views coming out of India on counterfeits don’t make sense and “ignore the huge advantage” that the country has in manufacturing legitimate generic drugs at cheaper prices.