Wednesday, 4 June 2014



Fraudulent medicines pose a considerable public health threat as they can fail to cure, may harm and even kill patients.  These threats to public health have led the international community to call for a stronger and more coordinated response. Compounding this public health risk is the fact that the supply chain for medicines operates at a global level, and therefore, a concerted effort at the international level is required to effectively detect and combat the introduction of fraudulent medicines along this supply chain.
The 20th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) adopted resolution 20/6 on fraudulent medicines, otherwise referred to as falsified medicines due to concern about the involvement of organized crime in the trafficking in fraudulent medicines. At the same time, resolution 20/6 highlights the potential utility of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) for which UNODC is the guardian, in re-enforcing international cooperation in the fight against trafficking, through, its provisions, inter alia, on mutual legal assistance, extradition and the seizing, freezing and forfeiture of the instrumentalities and proceeds of crime.
As with other forms of crime, criminal groups use, to their advantage, gaps in legal and regulatory frameworks, weaknesses in capacity and the lack of resources of regulatory, enforcement and criminal justice officials, as well as difficulties in international cooperation.  At the same time, the prospect of the comparatively low risk of detection and prosecution in relation to the potential income make the production and trafficking in fraudulent medicines an attractive commodity to criminal groups, who conduct their activities with little regard to the physical and financial detriment, if not the exploitation, of others.
Resolution 20/6 contains nine action points among which paragraph nine requests that UNODC, in cooperation with other United Nations bodies and international organizations, such as the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO/INTERPOL), as well as relevant regional organizations and mechanisms, national regulatory agencies for medicines and, where appropriate, the private sector, civil society organizations and professional associations, assist Member States in building capacity to disrupt and dismantle the organized criminal networks engaged in all stages of the illicit supply chain, in particular distribution and trafficking, to better utilize the experiences, technical expertise and resources of each organization and to create synergies with interested partners.
While focus has been given to the health and regulatory aspect of this problem, it appears that less attention has been given to the issue from a criminal justice perspective.  Given its expertise and work to build effective and transparent criminal justice systems and to support states to prevent and combat all forms of organized crime, UNODC can support the fight against the illicit manufacture and trafficking of fraudulent medicines in coordination with other stakeholders.
Consumers have lots of choices in buying prescription drugs these days. But as you search for the best price or most convenience, be careful about the source of your medications. Counterfeit drugs are on the rise, so you need to be vigilant about the quality and integrity of the drugs you buy. You might throw your money away on ineffective drugs, or even worse, you could be harmed by taking drugs that aren’t what they pretend to be.Learn more to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of counterfeit drugs.
  • Know your medications. If you know the size, shape, color, taste, and side effects of the prescriptions you take, you will more easily identify possible counterfeits. Contact your pharmacist or doctor if you notice anything different about a medication.
  • Pay attention to packaging. Check for altered or unsealed containers, or changes in the packaging or label. Contact your pharmacist or doctor if you notice any changes.
  • Only buy prescription medications from a safe, reputable source. If the seller is unfamiliar check with your state board of pharmacy or the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy at or call 847-391-4406. These sources can tell you if the pharmacy is licensed.
  • When you buy medications online, make sure the seller is properly licensed. Check with your state board of pharmacy or the National Association of Boards Pharmacy at or call 847-391-4406. These sources can tell you if the online seller is licensed. You should check the state board of pharmacy where the online seller is located, and your own state board of pharmacy. Some sites display a seal, such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s VIPPS seal, as proof that the site has met state and federal requirements. Dealing with pharmacies that display the VIPPS seal, which means they are Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site, or other similar certification seals, gives you more confidence that they and the products they sell are legitimate. See a list of VIPPS-accredited pharmacies.
  • If you believe you have bought a counterfeit drug, report it. Contact the pharmacist who sold you the medication. Your pharmacist will know if there has been a legitimate change in the color, shape, taste or packaging of the medication. You can also report your suspicions to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you bought the drug by mail, by telephone, or in person, contact the FDA’s Medwatch program at 1-800-332-1088 or at To report a counterfeit drug that you bought on the Internet, use this online form or call the Medwatch number. In addition, ask your doctor for medical advice if you have taken drugs you suspect are counterfeit.
USA Food & Drug Administration - FDA
In general, health fraud drug products are articles of unproven effectiveness that claim to treat disease or improve health. In addition to wasting billions of consumers' dollars each year, health scams can lead patients to delay proper treatment and cause serious—and even fatal—injuries. FDA is very concerned about these fraud products, and removing these products from the market remains one of the Agency's top priorities.

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