European sales of medicines bought from illicit sources are more than €10.5bn every year, according to a new survey - PMLiVE" /> European sales of medicines bought from illicit sources are more than €10.5bn every year, according to a new survey - PMLiVE" /> European sales of medicines bought from illicit sources are more than €10.5bn every year, according to a new survey" /> European sales of medicines bought from illicit sources are more than €10.5bn every year, according to a new survey" />

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Illicit medicines top €10.5bn in Europe

European sales of medicines bought from illicit sources are more than €10.5bn every year, according to a new survey

European sales of medicines bought from illicit sources, including many counterfeits, are more than €10.5bn every year, according to a new survey.

The Cracking Counterfeit Europe research - commissioned by New York based drugmakers, Pfizer – is said to have uncovered a "massive black market economy" in the trade of fake medicines, in particular through the internet, after surveying 14,000 people across 14 European countries.

One in five of those surveyed, equating to 77 million people in the total population, admitted to using illicit sources to buy prescription only medicines, with many making their purchases online for both cost and convenience. This is despite estimates referenced in a statement by Pfizer that between "50 and 90 per cent of medicines bought from online sources are fake".

The statement said this was particularly worrying when counterfeit medicines have been found to contain harmful ingredients such as rat poison or boric acid and are often produced by people with no appropriate qualifications. Other dangers include the fake medicines containing too much, too little or none of the active ingredient they should include, with the possibility of serious harm, or even death, occurring in patients who take them.

Dr David Gillen, Pfizer's medical director said: "People across Europe are risking their health and contributing to the criminal economy by accessing medicines from outside legitimate healthcare systems. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed don't acknowledge that taking prescription only medicines without a prescription is a risky activity. Yet the majority (71 per cent) of people said if they thought the medicines could be fake, this would impact the likelihood of them purchasing.

"This points to a clear need for greater public awareness and education. People are not only unaware of the very real dangers of counterfeit medicines, but also that they're fuelling an illegal and harmful criminal market."

Jim Thomson, chair of the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines (EAASM), who recently called for greater counterfeit legislation in Europe said: "This research shows quite clearly that an alarming number of people are risking their health by opting out of the healthcare system. When they do that, when they buy prescription medicines off-prescription, they stand an extremely good chance of receiving a fake. My question to any patient considering such a purchase would be "Where do you turn when the adverse reaction, side effect or for that matter lack of effect kicks in?"

"The message is clear – if you want to be healthy and stay healthy, see a healthcare professional and only take prescription only medicines prescribed by a legitimate healthcare source."

Pfizer has previously attempted to raise awareness of the danger of counterfeit drugs with its hard-hitting 'Real Danger' campaign which included a controversial advert involving a man pulling a dead rat from his mouth after taking medicine bought from an unofficial source.

The advert became the number one online education video in the UK, with over 49,000 people visiting the campaign website in the 25 days post-launch, providing a catalyst for calls for better education and awareness of the dangers of counterfeit medicine.

16th February 2010

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