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EU supply chain exposed to black market

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has called on the sector to do more to curb the rising problem of counterfeit medicine sales
The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) has called on the sector to do more to curb the rising problem of counterfeit medicine sales.

Director-general of the EFPIA, Brian Ager, said that the EU pharma supply chain is vulnerable to the increasing penetration of counterfeit medicine sales and that patient safety is being compromised. The federation says tougher sanctions and rules are needed to halt the spread of black market prescription drugs. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), counterfeit drug sales could reach $75bn by 2010.

"Even one single case of counterfeit medicine is unacceptable," said Ager. "Counterfeiting medicines is a highly lucrative criminal activity that can have serious consequences for the patient and can undermine public confidence in medicines."

Lax laws and regulations pertaining to the packaging of medicines is one of the causes EFPIA believes is behind the rise in the number of black market medicine sales. The federation has called for a ban on repackaging of medicines, as it is near impossible for an untrained person to spot the difference between a fake and genuine drug.

EFPIA said that the integrity of original packaging should be protected to ensure patients are using safe and regulated drugs, and that pharma companies and agencies across the EU should create a harmonised identification system. A unique bar code pilot scheme is on the federation's agenda but a rollout date has not yet been confirmed.

A similar call for a collective pan-European effort to curtail sales of fake drugs came from Aegate, a provider of product safety information. The firm said that pharmacists need to be able to confirm for their patients that the drugs they are dispensing have been officially validated.

Aegate said that a report by leading analyst, Frost and Sullivan, entitled Working Together on Mass Serialisation: Whose Responsibility is Ensuring Patient Safety details how a push by bodies, such as the European Commission, will help tackle the problem.

"I would encourage industry leaders to work together and to also take note of market best practice where countries including Greece, Belgium and Italy are already mass serialising their medicines," said Gary Noon, chief executive officer of Aegate. "Drawing on the best practice examples will help to define clear steps for formulating anti-counterfeiting strategies throughout Europe."

13th May 2008

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