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International News

Counterfeit Drugs on Rise, Pose Global Threat -- WHO

May 25, 2010

Counterfeit versions of drugs are increasingly finding their way into the consumer market, according to the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Counterfeit drugs "put people at risk of harm from medical products that may contain too much, too little or the wrong active ingredient and/or contain toxic ingredients," Margaret Hamburg said Wednesday in a speech to the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Counterfeit drugs for malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS are a particular problem in developing nations, especially those in Africa, according to a WHO report. In richer countries, counterfeit drugs are likely to be "expensive hormones, steroids, and anti-cancer medicines and pharmaceuticals related to lifestyle," the report says.

Known incidents of counterfeit medicines last year numbered 1,693, an increase of 7 percent over the previous year, according to the Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations. The group's members include Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi-Aventis.

Counterfeit treatments for diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS can increase the problem of drug resistance among those affected, said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. "For a patient, any medicine with compromised safety, efficacy or quality is dangerous," she said.

However, a Brazilian representative charged that major brand-name pharmaceutical companies are using the push against counterfeit drugs as cover to undermine competition from manufacturers of legitimate generics. "What we object to is a group of private companies, with the help of the [WHO] secretariat, waging war in this organization against generic medicines," ambassador Maria Nazareth Farani Azevedo said in a speech.

Patient safety, not commercial competition, is behind the campaign against counterfeit drugs, responded representatives of research and development-oriented pharmaceutical companies.

Back to other news for May 2010

Adapted from:
05.20.2010; Stephanie Nebehay

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on Counterfeit Drugs for HIV/AIDS and Related Conditions

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