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Updated by Peter Anderson on Feb 18, 2017
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The Peterson Group

The Peterson Group is a non-profit organization/group information website and watchdog of counterfeit and illegal drugs. To organize awareness and action in the battle against counterfeit drugs, the group shaped the organization to make people informed mostly in cities like Singapore, Taipei Taiwan, Beijing, China, Victoria Hong Kong, Jakarta, Indonesia and on almost most part of Malaysia.

Putting an end to counterfeit drugs | The Peterson Group

Criminals and their associates determinedly try to find ways to avoid being detected. They are involved in complex schemes to conceal their tricks. They set up fabricated front companies of their businesses. They abuse fragilities in border control every time government's effort to advocate world trade through lessening border reviews.

The Peterson Group and WHO to Fight against Drug Counterfeits

Described as the crime of the 21st century, the counterfeiting of drugs is a common problem that plagues the governments and manufacturers in Asia. Of all the counterfeiting methods there are, none are more potentially damaging than those affecting health and safety. The production, distribution and consumption of counterfeit and fraud medicines are worldwide and affecting greatly not only in Asia which poses the biggest manufacturers of counterfeits but also to the countries where the drugs has been distributed. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a significant fraction of the world’s drug supply is counterfeit and falsified. Estimates of counterfeit drugs range from 10 to 15 % for the world drug supply, to more than 25% in developing countries (Gibson, 2004).

With the turn of the first quarter of 2015, The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization which brings awareness and action against counterfeit drugs has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) in battling with the illegal drugs’ production.

Spot a Counterfeit in a Distance

Being in the cause of stopping counterfeit drugs, we at The Peterson Group also have challenges on how to differentiate between counterfeit drugs and legit ones. We know you are also in the same page as we are. In response to this, Food and Drug Administration released some factors in knowing and recognizing counterfeited drugs.

Of course, there are sometimes very obvious telltale signs of counterfeiting faulty spelling, for example, incorrect packaging or tablet size.

Yet counterfeiters are fast becoming better at replicating genuine drugs correctly, and are increasingly sophisticated when mimicking specific anti-counterfeit measures such as brand logos. This has pushed manufacturers to enhance anti-counterfeit technology.

Developed and Developing Countries Not Safe from Counterfeit Medicines

We understand what you are thinking. It might seem impossible or in a sense hard for scammers to deliver counterfeit medicines in already developed country where security is tight and people more aware of the effects of purchasing counterfeit drugs. Well, it is in fact an advantage to live in developed countries but it doesn’t make it safer. When you think about it, if under developed countries like Africa are using the traditional ways to cure their disease and illness, does it mean that they have less risk of getting involved in scams and fraudulent acts of counterfeit drugs manufacture? reviews

Factors Encouraging the Distribution of Counterfeit Drugs

We already know counterfeiting drugs is illegal. The question is: why does this continue? The Peterson Group had asked members of Drug and Food Administration (DFA) to understand the agenda behind these kinds of fraudulent acts.Lack of political will and commitment The development, manufacture, import, subsequent handling within the distribution chain and use require specialized knowledge and skills.

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Counterfeit Anti-Malarial Drugs Spreads like Wildfire

Counterfeit Anti-Malarial Drugs Spreads like Wildfire

Since the outbreak of malaria became a big hit to the public, a lot of cures and medicines are produced and underwent intensive research to fight off this deadly mosquito bite. However though, also in the rise are counterfeit anti-malarial drugs distributed worldwide. Huge quantities of distribution go to underdeveloped and remote areas which have not enough access to authentic ones. Now they are out in the open as the government, different health organizations such as the World Health Organizations (WHO), United Nations (UN) and private institutes like The Peterson Group take actions in defeating these fraudulent acts.

Where can they be found?

_They can be found anywhere, but they are especially prevalent in developing countries lacking effective drug regulatory agencies as well as resources required to effectively evaluate drug quality or enforce drug quality regulations. Records show that there is a supply in cities like Brunei, Jakarta, Indonesia and Bangkok, Thailand in the recent years. _

What types of antimalarial drug quality issues can be found?

Drugs with too little, too much, or absolutely no active ingredient, due to intentional fraud or poor manufacturing and quality control practice.

• A tablet’s inability to release drug, due to poor formulation techniques.
• Chemical breakdown of drugs caused by storage conditions, especially in warm, humid climates.
• Contamination with other substances due to poor manufacturing procedures.
• Incomplete, inaccurate or misleading packaging and labeling.

How can I avoid buying counterfeit or substandard anti-malarial drugs to prevent malaria when I travel to an area with malaria transmission?

• Buy the anti-malarial drugs you need in your home country and keep the original packaging to review and compare.
• Write down the drug's generic and brand names as well as the name of the manufacturer so in case you run out, you can look for the correct product.
• If you need to purchase medicine in the country you are visiting, inspect and compare the packaging of the medicine available for sale in that country with the original. Many times poor quality printing or paper indicates a counterfeited product.
• Be suspicious of tablets that have a peculiar odor, taste, or color, or ones that are extremely brittle. Ill-defined imprints on the tablet may indicate a counterfeit.
• The quality of commercially available drugs varies greatly in malaria-endemic countries:
• The amount of the active ingredient can vary due to lack of regulations and poor quality control practices.
• Some pills may release very little if any drug due to poor formulation techniques.
• Chemical break-down of some drugs can occur due to poor storage conditions, especially in warm and humid tropical climates.
• Some drugs may be contaminated with other substances.
• Counterfeiters may also obtain expired drugs and repackage them with false or missing expiration dates.

Factors behind Pharmaceutical Tampering and Diversion

While counterfeit drugs are commonplace in developing countries, criminals in the developed world tended to focus on illegal ‘hard’ drugs, which offer high returns on investment. However, several factors are combining to shift criminal activity to counterfeit ‘legitimate’ drugs in developed countries. These include the high cost to develop and market legitimate drugs, the rising demand for prescription ‘lifestyle’ drugs, the declining margins associated with illegal drugs, the increasing accessibility of the tools needed to create and distribute counterfeit drugs, the effect of deregulation and Internet sales channels, and the mild response of law enforcement to counterfeiting.

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Counterfeiting a Global Problem

Counterfeiting is an age old issue. It is now a global problem where every sector of our economy has been affected. However, the consequences are different when it comes to counterfeit medicines; the main concern is not so much the loss of revenue to our industry but the health of patients. The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization against drug counterfeiting, has been fighting alongside World Health Organization (WHO) since the deployment of their task force in 2006. We have made development so did the scammers. They seem to dominate more countries and cities from distributing inside China, India until they have reached neighboring cities like Jakarta, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and even the United States.

Substandard and falsified drugs medicines still cause thousands of adverse reactions and some deaths in rich countries. And the issue is growing. Counterfeit medicines have been found in every disease category, and in every region of the world. Reviews show that while 1% of products in the legal pharmaceutical supply chain in the developed world is estimated to be counterfeit, this figure amounts to 10-15% in emerging markets and 30% in developing countries

Internet is also one of the factors with the spread of counterfeiting. With thousands of websites emerging, hundreds of those are illegal online pharmacies which are not checked by the authorities. Illegal online pharmacies are allowed to roam uncontrolled- creating a truly global problem. In studies, a big percentage of these medicines purchased online are fake or substandard. Some even are nonexistent.

With different partners and campaigns worldwide with the same cause, the sheer amount of initiatives is great. Actually these are necessary if we want to stop what is a global phenomenon. Yet, more thought must be given on how to structure these initiatives, to avoid overlaps but also to make sure that all stakeholders affected are involved in the process. This is a fundamental issue. TPG has already partnered with pharmacies and drug manufacturing companies to further solidify the cause.

It is unacceptable to think that patients could take medication that does the opposite of what they are supposed to. Patients need to be able to trust in the medicines they take. As an industry we want and need to take part in finding long-term solutions to ensure that the problem is stopped.

The certainty is that the counterfeiting needs to be dealt with swiftly to at least contain the problem before being able to solve it once and for all. Work has started and battle lines are being drawn but a lot still needs to be done- and the quicker the better.

Internet Counterfeiting

For the thousands of websites in the internet, hundreds of those are non-existent, no physical address or not really operating. There are also some who set up websites to scam people in biting their “services or products” and get money. Everything is possible with witty scammers nowadays.

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the widespread of counterfeit drugs is mostly alarmed on this latest tactic of these fraudulent people. TPG, along with World Health Organization and other non-profit organizations and governmental institutes is currently finding solutions on the laws and security of our citizens online. Warnings are already put online and seminars are being held.

Counterfeit Medicine Advice for Healthcare Professionals

Counterfeit medicines are rampant in countries where law enforcement and regulations are weakest. In most industrialized countries, there are rules that prevent counterfeiting but in developing nations, these rules are not based in anything because of the lack of knowledge of its manufacture and production even from professionals. Cities like Jakarta, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore are now integrating practices from America for security measures and importing

The Peterson Group, a nonprofit organization with an aim to eliminate the illegal usage, importation, exportation and distribution has asked experts in this field to give some advices and warnings for better detection and evaluation of medicines prescribed to clients:

Drawback in Telemedicine

With the advancement of modern technology, even the health sector has been able to integrate it to make life easier and more convenient to patients. With the development, online consultations are created to provide a more accessible medium. This process of using websites to advertise medicines and giving prescription thru the video calling or thru a communication network is called Telemedicine. Through it, doctors and patients can interact and their health is evaluated by online doctors. This in itself is a big step in medicine and modernization. It wouldn’t matter anymore if you are in a vacation in Jakarta, Indonesia or Maldives and your doctor is in California or you would want to order a specific medicine from miles away, consultation and purchase of drugs can now done online or through phone calls.

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Counterfeiting Around the World

Counterfeiting Around the World

During the years that we have been actively campaigning against the use of counterfeit drugs, The Peterson Group, a non-profit online organization working with the World Health Organization (WHO), private companies and public institutes in an effort of stopping fraudulent acts on production, manufacture, importation and exportation of counterfeit medicines, has been repeatedly asked which city or country has the highest rate of the illegal use of these products. Honestly, we do not have a definite answer as the statistics have been fluctuating especially in developing nations. Fortunately, the number of scams in the industry has dropped low on the first quarter of 2015 but is not expected to disappear in a long time.

With the help of WHO and the International Medical Products Anti-trafficking Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT), TPG was able to gather information from some individual countries all over the world:

Dominican Republic

The Public Health Department reported that 50% of the pharmacies operate illegally and that, according to the statistics, 10% of the medicines that arrive in the country are fake. Some of the medicines found have expired over 10 years ago.

El Salvador

INQUIFAR, the association of pharmaceutical companies in El Salvador, has denounced the widespread availability of counterfeit drugs on the domestic market. According to the local drug-maker Gamma Laboratorios, the commercialization of counterfeit medicines currently generates economic losses of around $40 million per year to the country's pharmaceutical industry.

Indonesia

The International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (IPMG) in Indonesia has estimated that pirated drugs constitute 25% of Indonesia’s $2 billion pharmaceutical market. According to IPMG’s vice chairman, those fake drugs hit foreign pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines and pose a potential serious public health threat. Black markets in Jakarta are now being under surveillance by international representative after some complaints that local authorities have permitted fraudsters to sell in plain sight.

Kenya

A random survey by the National Quality Control Laboratories (NQCL) and the Pharmacy and Poisons Board found the almost 30% of drugs in Kenya are counterfeit. Some of the drugs are no more than just chalk or water being marketed as competent pharmaceutical products. According to figures from the Kenyan Association of Pharmaceutical Industry, counterfeit pharmaceutical products account for approximately $130 million annually in sales in the country.

The discovery of using paper to identify counterfeited medicines is now under process and will soon be releasing results.

China

China’s Research and Development-based Pharmaceutical Association estimated that about 8% of over-the-counter drugs sold in China are counterfeit.

Dangers when Buying Medicines Online

Online pharmacies are already rampant in the vast expanse of the internet world. With this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a fiercer challenge to know which of these hundreds of pharmacies are legitimate.

According to the research of the Peterson Group, an online community against the illegal manufacture, importation, exportation and distribution of counterfeit drugs, these drugs contain little to almost nothing of the healing ingredient. Instead, it is composed of absurd mixture of chalk, bird feces, paint and ordinary things used in daily activities. These medicines may also be proven fatal to human condition and can induce ailments to worsen. Warnings and cautions are being campaigned worldwide to prevent civilians from being scammed by these websites.

Signs of a trustworthy website

• It has a physical address and should be visible to any search engine directories and citations. Video reviews or testimonials can help boost the website’s credentials although it cannot be a hundred percent assurance.
• It’s licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website is operating. A list of these boards is available at the website of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
• It has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
• It requires a prescription for prescription medicines from your doctor or another health care professional who is licensed to prescribe medicines.
• It provides contact information and allows you to talk to a person if you have problems or questions.

Signs of an unsafe website

• It sends you drugs with unknown quality or origin. Cases of these include that of a Canadian website selling medicines in Jakarta, Indonesia. When the package was received, the return address was in Beijing, China. Beware of websites having vague addresses and unfamiliar manufacture name.
• It gives you the wrong drug or another dangerous product for your illness.
• It doesn’t provide a way to contact the website by phone.
• It offers prices that are dramatically lower than the competition.
• It may offer to sell prescription drugs without a prescription—this is against the law!
• It may not protect your personal information.

Before you get any new medicine for the first time, talk to a health care professional such as your doctor or pharmacist about any special steps you need to take to fill your prescription.

Any time you get a prescription refilled:
• check the physical appearance of the medicine (color, texture, shape, and packaging)
• check to see if it smells and tastes the same when you use it
• alert your pharmacist or whoever is providing treatment to anything that is different

In a sense, both meanings of counterfeit and substandard medicines are the same in medical definitions. By the term itself, substandard products are not able to meet the level set by the authorities and are often results of human error, negligence, insufficient finances and/or counterfeiting.

The existence of these fraudulent acts is overwhelming that the World Health Organization (WHO) has formed an alliance with legitimate global partners to defeat its increasing numbers. With private organizations, non-profit organizations, public and government institutions and concerned individuals, different awareness campaigns are continuous and active operations are underway.

According to reports gathered by The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization with the same agenda, the existence of drug counterfeiting has already been prevalent in the late 1980s until it became viral and widespread with the adaption of technological advancement. Online pharmacies became the venue for more illegal deeds. Those rejected by legitimate pharmacies are being sneaked out of factories and copied, manufactured in tons of doses with ingredients already replaced by lethal ingredients. Substandard medicines became rampant and millions of people are victimized.

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Anti-Counterfeiting Machineries

Anti-Counterfeiting Machineries

The Peterson Group with a set of individuals and experts aiming to stop the production, importation, exportation and usage of counterfeit medicines has partnered with various entities, public and private organizations as well as fellow non-profit institutes have developed machineries to know which medicine is counterfeited.

Fortunately, there are methods developed to use in order for us to determine real from fake medicines. Although there are no significant proof yet on how these machines and process can be used and which ones can be the best option to distribute to the market. The following are ideas given by the World Health Organization (WHO):

1. Holograms

Probably the most familiar overt feature is the “dove hologram”. Holograms and similarly optically variable devices can be more effective when incorporated with a tampered evident feature. However, some holograms are easily copied as a lot of scammers are also experts in technological advancement.

2. Invisible Printing

Using special inks, invisible markings can be printed with some substrate, and which only appear in under certain conditions like UV light or IR illumination. They can be formulated to show different wavelengths and colors. This kind of new technology is currently being studied in Jakarta, Indonesia.

3. Laser Coding

This method comes with a very expensive cost. However, the results can be very impressive and would be very hard to simulate. Laser codes can be applied to cartons and packaging, plastic and metal components.

4. Chemical Taggants

Trace chemicals can only be done with special and unique devices. Also, it can only be detected by highly specialized reagent systems, but not normally detectable by conventional analysis.

5. Bar Codes

Bar codes are one of the most conventional method of uniquely branding some medicine packaging and distinguish it from fraud ones. The so-called nano technologies allow microscopic application onto available tablets. However, there are also a lot of techniques done by scammers that can duplicate bar codes.

6. Mass Sterilization

Serialization includes the processes of generating, encoding, and verifying the unique identity of individual physical items. Without mass serialization, the authenticity and validity of the pedigree relates only to the lot number consisting of thousands of bottles. However, a specific bottle of a particular drug cannot be authenticated.

7. Data Carriers

Data carriers are graphical systems used to convey the product identifiers and associated information in computer and/or human readable format. A mark, tag, or label applied at the source represents them. Computer readable formats include linear and two dimensional (2D) bar codes and radio frequency identifier (RFID) tags.

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FDA Warns On More Counterfeit Cialis

FDA Warns On More Counterfeit Cialis

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a warning on the personal importation of adulterated and counterfeit medicines continuously circulating in the market. With the help of private institutions, online websites and non-profit organizations which support the campaign against counterfeit medicines are now on full-force to know the source of this widespread of erectile dysfunction treatment which promises many but realizes none. Cialis is one of the products believed to dominate the market. Even black markets are currently under siege in search of fraudsters. In Jakarta, Indonesia, more than 20 stalls were closed down for further investigation.

The government is already being cautious on the strict implementation of rules against these illegal medicines because of the discovery of fraud Cialis back in 2008 in New Zealand which led to one death and up to 30 serious adverse and 59 other possible reactions. Victims had been verified to even reach Singapore. It may also be possible that there are more cases on the neighboring countries.

According to reports submitted to The Peterson Group, one of the non-profit organizations partnering with FDA, four products had been found to contain dangerous levels of prescription medicine to treat diabetes. All four products contain glibenclamide, a prescription medicine used to treat diabetes as well as prescription medicines used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Glibenclamide acts by lowering blood sugar levels and its use by consumers who do not have diabetes can produce serious side effects including coma and possible death.

It's important to note that there are no safety concerns with genuine Cialis products that are currently available on a prescription and obtained from a New Zealand pharmacy. The product sponsor, Eli Lilly, is concerned about this counterfeiting development and is working with New Zealand and international authorities to investigate the matter.

It may be possible that these products had reached your neighborhood. In this case, stop taking the product immediately. Contact a doctor immediately if you feel unwell. Even if you have not felt unwell, consult your doctor at the earliest opportunity.

Medsafe has noted for some time that counterfeit medicines have appeared at the border in consignments destined for individuals purchasing over the internet. In February this year Medsafe received the results of testing of some 27 products believed to be counterfeit that were seized at the border during the second half of 2007. Testing confirmed that all of the products contained an erectile dysfunction prescription medicine (either sildenafil or tadalafil). In many cases the products were contaminated with other medicine active ingredients indicating poor manufacturing quality or further evidence of fraud. The poor labeling and presentation of the products also indicated their quality was below the standards required in New Zealand. Countries of origin included: India, China and Thailand.

Antiretroviral Drugs Continues to Circulate in the Market

More than 35 million individuals are currently living with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) around the world. Many are opening out to the public with an aim to create awareness and serve as a warning to others but there are also individuals who choose to live in the cave as this disease is understandably embarrassing and degrading.

With the increasing number of peoples being treated with AIDS, many government bodies partnered with the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) for the increasing access to antiretroviral therapy (AVR). Although protective and advanced measures are being adopted by many government offices, private institutions, non-profit foundations and public organizations, the widespread of counterfeit medicines are continuously increasing but less attention are being paid into it as more and more issues are being considered as prior importance.

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization battling against the illegal manufacture and distribution of counterfeit drugs is one of the team dedicated to eliminate the use of antiretroviral therapy in the black market, many of which are found to be composed of substances such as paint, chalk and many other compounds used in daily living.

Knowing the Extent of Counterfeit Medicines in Asia

Counterfeiting medicines are now considered as bioterrorism as there is a widespread of accounts operating across the globe. There is also share of these reports in America and Europe and certain measures are already being implemented to prevent it from spreading. If you are seeking medications for health complaints in Asia, on the other hand, you must be aware of some countries in the region which are notorious for counterfeited meds that even legitimate pharmacies are oftentimes victims.

The extent of the problem is never known as Asia, obviously, is the largest continent with various cultures and security measures implemented in each country. There is never a definite number being presented and the statistics may fluctuate in every place.

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The Dangerous Business of Drug Smuggling

The Dangerous Business of Drug Smuggling

Illegal trade of medicines considered harmful to health without proper monitoring and prescription is an international issue and a long-time problem among many governmental institutions.

There are rampant reports on the trade of drugs such as cocaine and heroin. It has long been a frustrating feature and the government as well as the public has been in constant pursuit against its distribution. After years of attempt to combat the illegal drug trade, nations have realized cooperation among international actions is the only effective way to restrain the trade.

Africa and Asia have been victims of these trades because of loose security. Because of the worsening effect on each nation, many cities have taken extra precaution on the deals involving drugs and medications.

Indonesia is one example of one of the nation’s known to have the most secured policy when it comes to punishing fraudsters in this field. From Jakarta to other parts of the archipelago, capital punishment is the worst penalty sentenced to those found guilty of smuggling illegal drugs within any part of the country. Earlier this year, nine foreign and local individuals were executed through firing squad because of drug trafficking.

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Problems and Solutions to Counterfeiting

Problems and Solutions to Counterfeiting

Warnings on the global boom of counterfeit medicines have been known to bring forth realization of the unwanted and dangerous business. Moreover, those who are often victimized are from developing nations but global awareness has been expected to reach even the most illiterate parts of regions through advanced technology. It is now a race on who would reach the market first: the warnings or the advancing fraudulent methods used by scammers.

According to The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization advocate in eliminating the production and distribution of counterfeit drugs, 80% of counterfeit medicines proportion has been dominating in some wholesale pharmaceutical companies in Africa.

China still remains to be the largest distributor of counterfeit medicines, operating in almost 500 factories around the country. The number has been expected to increase over time. Far from what is also expected to developing nations, these counterfeited medicines still cause adverse effect and reactions and can still cause deaths despite advanced methodologies being practiced?

In South East Asia, the weak implementation of law is still a prevailing issue. Despite the efforts of Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore to stop illegal smuggling of counterfeit medicines by putting warning signs at airports and implementing death penalty on anyone who breaks the law, transactions within these regions are still predominating. It makes it easier for smugglers in Indonesia since there is more than one entrance for inter-island transactions.

In order to contain global scourge, the more advanced countries should assist less developed ones. Dynamics of these developing sources should be integrated with that of properly implemented nations. This problem cannot be eliminated if the supply-demand issues continue to hinder non-profit organizations, the government and the public to fully enforce proper solutions.

Since there are more than concerns which should be done, International Policy Network of London has listed some possible solutions for this prevailing issue which causes thousands of deaths annually:

• Adjudication of disputes over contracts should be simpler and cheaper, so that contracts may be more readily enforced.
• Bureaucratic restrictions on doing business should be removed.
• The manufacturers of brand goods should be able more effectively to protect their trademarks.
• Most fundamentally, courts of law should be granted greater independence, so that their rulings are more impartial and less influenced by powerful vested interests.
• The legislature should not have the power to interfere with judicial decisions.
• The power of law enforcement agents should be curtailed and their actions subject to judicial review.
• The actions of other government agents (e.g. regulators) should be subject to judicial review.
• Regulation restricting the supply of medicines should be improved or scrapped.
• Governments should reduce taxes and tariffs on all medicines.

Unmasking Drug Counterfeiters: The New Pirates of the Seas

Back when South China Sea was a backwater area for the western colonizers, pirates plowed its waves in search of ships and towns they could maraud and plunder. The notorious Chinese pirate, Limahong, became a sort of folk hero in Southeast Asia for having eluded the British Navy for many years until he and his dastardly buccaneers sailing a fleet of junks decided to attack Manila, which was then under Spanish rule. Although they failed to take over the city, the pirates remained in one part of the country’s main island for almost two years before eluding the Spaniards by digging a small river and escaping at night. Limahong was never caught and continued to bedevil the British authorities for years.

People may have a penchant for watching and admiring the exploits of pirates; however, when we realize how much damage and violence they commit, we awaken to the painful stabs of reality –especially when we are the victims ourselves. And this is the case of the new pirates wreaking havoc in Asia at present – drug counterfeiters. These elements ply their trade by dumping their fake drugs through the pharmaceutical chains and have amassed a significant number of customers, endangering the legitimate drug industry as well as the health of millions of people.   

Under U.S. law, counterfeit drugs are those “being those sold using a product name exclusive of authorization”. Counterfeit drugs can involve either fake “generic products” or imitating brand names, such that the original brand or name is intentionally mislabeled or new ones are made to appear like the original products. Moreover, fake drugs can also include products “lacking or (having) inadequate amount of active ingredient, with the incorrect active ingredient, or with false packaging”.

The extent of the plague of drug piracy is difficult to determine, particularly in the developing nations where legal and economic controls are less stringent. World Health Organization recognizes this dilemma and works hard at coordinating with its constituencies to minimize or eliminate the effect this problem has on the general health of the world’s population. The Peterson Group joins in this fight against fake drugs. It has estimated that the “global sales of fake drugs (adds up) to $75 billion annually”. That is a staggering figure, considering that in a city, for instance, that has about 10 million residents, every person could be spending $75 annually if that city had only 1% share of that global figure. And that is pretty much what every individual spends on vitamins or other common medications on a daily basis -- 20 cents on the average. That is roughly the price of one multi-vitamin tablet that every ordinary person can afford to buy to provide minimum maintenance for a healthy body. And if the chances of any person getting a fake drug at the counter is 7 out of 10, then the chances of that person keeping a healthy body is greatly reduced.

If the extent of the fake drugs industry is so widespread, this tells us at least two things, namely:

  1. That a majority of people in Asia and in many parts of the world are not getting the right medication they need (not to mention the right kind of food that they eat).

  2. That this counterfeit drug industry could be an operation that enjoys some kind of protection from illegitimate and/or legitimate authorities. (If drugs can be faked, so with official documents.)       
     
    As in many instances of crime, corruption is at the root’s end. The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization, helps to make people and governments aware of this creeping worldwide problem. Operating in Asia (particularly Hong Kong, Indonesia, Jakarta and Malaysia), The Peterson Group is strategically located to monitor the flow of this contraband and its effects on the welfare of people for it has committed itself to preventing the illegal drug smugglers in Asia. 

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Common Ingredients of a Counterfeit Medicine

Common Ingredients of a Counterfeit Medicine

Counterfeit Medicines are rampant in many developing countries around the world. The advancement of technology has also been taken advantage of by many fraudsters and scammers operating under illegal authorization and against the law. In as much as using technology being advanced, the ingredients that are being used in producing these counterfeit medicines are cheaper and what Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been warning about.

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against any use of counterfeit medicines in any forms of production, manufacture, importation, exportation and distribution features the known chemicals and substances included in most illegal drugs’ ingredients.

1. Heavy Metals

a. Mercury

Test results from a 2010 study shows 26% of sampling medicines purchased from fake online pharmacies contains heavy metal and toxins including mercury. An intake of this element can cause peripheral neuropathy, skin discoloration, and kidney dysfunction and memory impairment.

b. Arsenic

Arsenic is found to be the cause of a death of a woman in 2006. It was found out that she ordered from an online pharmacy based in Canada and studies show a big amount of arsenic poison in her medicine.

c. Uranium

Uranium is one of the most deadly heavy metal which is also used in nuclear bombs. Small doses can cause kidney dysfunction and urinary tract damage.

2. Actual Poison

a. Rat Poison

On the term itself, intake of these substances are already hazardous to your health. In one study of hundreds of Viagra counterfeit medicines in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2012, FDA has found large amounts of rat poison on all drugs. Even in doses as low as 1gram it can still cause diarrhea, vomiting, hair loss and even death.

b. Antifreeze

Antifreeze was once substituted for glycerin killing 365 people in Panama, 88 children in Haiti and harming many more. Lethal doses as small as 1/3 of a teaspoon can cause liver and kidney failure.

3. Household Items

a. Wall Paint

This substance is mostly used by counterfeiters to add color to the drugs. Paint pigments may contain different kinds of heavy metals which can cause blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

b. Floor wax

Floor wax is used to provide a nice sheen to mimic a medicine’s coating. This material contains formaldehyde which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and in extreme cases, death.

c. Brick Dust

This is used by fraudsters to create a similar texture to real medicines. Brick dust contains poisonous heavy metals and chemicals.

Medicines, an Intellectual Property

Counterfeit Medicines do not rock the same boat. Not only would the manufacturers lose economically. Fraudulence in this field also poses a great risk in health. The World Health Organization (WHO) which plays the main fortress of many organizations and causes against the widespread of counterfeiting medicines has highlighted the issue by decreeing different kinds of trump cards and bylaws. In the passing of time, while the panic withers away, fraudsters have also strengthened their strategies. They got fiercer, not even considering trademark issues and deceitfully duplicated brand after brand. Unlike the spreading market for clothes’ brands, counterfeited labels bring trust down and cause reputation to plummet.

According to reviews archived by The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, in 2003, the biggest conflict faced by authorities regarding protection of intellectual property rights is the agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) who both offers vague rules and statements against trademark infringement in medicines being exchanged internationally.

WHO Warning Falls to Deaf Ears

It would have been better if World Health Organization has cautioned the blind and the deaf, they may have listened more but the ignorance of people to precautions and warnings has led to high mortality rate and worsening disease symptoms.

Using different media and even fellow non-profit organizations, WHO has rounded up most information both in developing and already developed countries? From the busy streets of New York to the heavy traffic in Jakarta, Indonesia, the information has been passed on. The organization also took advantage of the partnership with other institutions. The Peterson Group, an online non-profit society is one of the institutions avidly campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines in South East Asia. Along with numerous local groups campaigning for the same cause, a lot of developing Asian nations are already informed. Yet, there may be possible reasons for people to become unaware.

The variety of information makes compiling data a difficult task. Sources of information include historic data which can sometimes already be obsolete. This is one of the reasons why there is not much trust in the information given by WHO and the main details are oftentimes overlooked.

Another factor hindering information from being spread are the political powers moving behind their names and standing in society. Those who have the authority to inform may not have fully discussed the severity of the situation and may have not emphasized the impact of counterfeit medicines to one’s health. It may also be that the authority itself is behind fraudulent transactions, gaining profits from mafia groups and scammers.

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Precautions and Warnings on Counterfeiting

Precautions and Warnings on Counterfeiting

Asia is famous to nearly all kinds of forgery and fraudulence. China leads the rest of the continent in bearing the name ‘fake’. Perhaps these accusations have their bearing. After all, the products which are counterfeited would trace back to illegal production companies in the region. Dirty politics and lax of security has had a lot to do with it, as so many bad reviews had pointed out.

Nevertheless, Asia, with more developing countries than developed ones, has had a lot of records in combating the issue at hand. The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeiting medicines notes that changes have been developing and plans have been integrated to prevent this issue from spreading. In fact, World Health Organization has summarized more legislations and suggestions on counterfeit combating as advised by many Asian members in the congress.

The following are possible measures in contending the problem:

• National Government

The government, perhaps, has the most important role in stopping counterfeiting. With a stable policy and regulation, proper execution of security, there would be a good chance penalty can be imposed on fraudsters. Those in office have the power to enact rules and legislations which can help strengthen the campaign against spurious, falsely-labeled, falsified and counterfeit medicines. They can foster cooperation between different sectors of the government that play a role in the process. Medicine legislation should be formed and they should be the ones to ensure that counterfeit meds are confiscated and destroyed. United Kingdom has started their own government campaign but many critics say that developing cities who are also taking their own stand like Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore have too much politics to implement proper policies.

• Consumers

Consumers also have their share of responsibilities. We cannot always complain and do nothing. We, as the people who would be directly affected by the effects of counterfeit medicines should be suspicious and cautious of our every purchase. As much as possible, do not buy from a peddler or in market places, do not trust large discounts and check if labels or packaging would hint distrustful information about them. Also, be aware of emergency numbers to dial in case you may encounter one.

• Medical Organizations and Pharmaceutical Companies

Since there are issue and conflicts occurring between the government and private companies when it comes to disclosure of information, there would always be miscommunication. These companies should work closely with national law enforcement and not entirely conceal their own information to themselves.