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Countering the counterfeit

Motivating the public to reconnect with legitimate health services

Published: 15 Feb 2011

Get real

Client: Pfizer

Agency: Red Health

Campaign: Driving The Get Real, Get a Prescription Campaign to the next level

Timescale: October 2009 to April 2010

A quick look

Phase one of Get Real, Get a Prescription put the dangers of buying fake medicine firmly on to the public health agenda, utilising solid research to underpin the campaign. Phase two also saw research serving as the central lynchpin – this time of UK adults and GPs. Compelling evidence highlighted the proportion of people who put themselves at risk through purchasing medicines from illicit sources, delivering over 126.5m opportunities to see via multiple channels, motivating the public to reconnect with legitimate health services and reject risky illicit sources of medicine.


With global sales of fake medicines expected to reach $75bn, and 50-90% of prescription medicines sold by unregulated websites shown to be fake, purchasing prescription-only medicines (POMs) from illicit sources is a major threat to UK public health.

Research conducted by Pfizer for Get Real, Get a Prescription aimed to put the dangers of buying fake medicine firmly on to the public health agenda. In phase two, the challenge was to gain a deeper insight into the motivations for purchasing medicines online, and to investigate how far consumer understanding had shifted in the fight against fakes.


New research was used to demonstrate how consumer attitudes, understanding and behaviours towards the issue were changing. It created fresh hooks to capture media interest and served as a platform for key messages on the risks of fake medicines to the public. Campaign partners were the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), The Patients Association, HEART UK and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Data was packaged for media and supported with relevant stakeholder interviews and quotes. Widespread coverage drove the news agenda, including BBC Breakfast, Sky News, GMTV and features on The One Show and BBC’s Fake Britain. Print included The Daily Express, Daily Star, Metro, The Sun and The Evening Standard.

A public roadshow, including a mock-up counterfeit lab, operated in eight UK cities, leveraging regional survey statistics as local media hooks.

Media outreach was supported by above-the-line activity including TV advertising and powerful billboards developed for outdoor, pub washrooms and digital media.


There were 126,633,168 opportunities to see the campaign across non-paid-for traditional and digital media, andDTC roadshow.

Roadshow statistics showed that 75% of people would now think twice about where prescription medicine should be obtained and 94% said they would tell someone about what they had seen and learnt.

Only 1% of men surveyed in 2008 thought fake medicine could contain rat poison, increasing to 32% by November 2009. Success of this message penetration provided the rationale to roll out research across Europe (14 countries), the findings of which were packaged and tailored locally.

Client verdict

“Throughout the Get Real, Get a Prescription campaign, Pfizer and our partners have identified and reached those people most likely to risk their health by purchasing  medicines from illicit sources. The behavioural change is measurable and Pfizer is committed to working together to tackle this serious issue.”

Louise Clark, Associate Director of Communications, EU & UK, Pfizer

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