EFPIA welcomes the publication by the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights of a new report assessing the economic impact of counterfeiting and piracy in the pharmaceutical sector.

Entitled “The economic cost of IPR infringement in the pharmaceutical industry”, the report underscores the serious public health threat posed by counterfeit medicines. Counterfeit medicines may contain the wrong active ingredients, the wrong dose or dangerous substances that may contribute to drug resistance, further illness, disability or even death: they frustrate the concept of quality of medicines. No category of medicines is safe from this dangerous phenomenon, as it affects originator, generic, prescription-only or over-the-counter medicines alike.

While the extent of counterfeiting activities and their impact is difficult to quantify reliably – given the complexity of the pharmaceutical market in Europe and the often criminal nature of counterfeiting activities – estimates suggest that 10% of all medicines supplied globally are falsified. Beyond the dramatic consequences counterfeiting can have on patients’ health, the report further estimates that counterfeiting costs the pharmaceutical industry and Europe more than €10 billion each year and may result in the loss of up to 40,000 direct jobs. Taking into account the broader and indirect effects of counterfeit pharmaceuticals on other sectors, this translates to a negative impact of over €17 billion and 90,000 job losses.

It is highly regretful that the offer of counterfeit medicines has surged in recent years, mainly as a result of significant criminal networks, attracted by high profit prospects, the low level of sanctions and the ease of trafficking, through, for example, e-commerce. An estimated 30,000 illegal sites targeting European citizens operate on a daily basis, at the detriment of patients’ health.

Counterfeit medicines represent a worldwide threat and there is therefore a global shared responsibility to tackle the issue effectively and promptly. Measures must be introduced to protect patients, by improving product security throughout supply chains, through, for example, the European Medicines Verification System, currently being set up by manufacturers, traders, wholesalers and pharmacists in the context of the implementation of the Falsified Medicines Directive, but also by increasing the sanctions – this is why EFPIA supports the MEDICRIME Convention. In addition to this, raising awareness about the dangers of counterfeit medicines is critical. In this regard, the Fight the Fakes campaign offers a voice to victims and those working to put a stop to this threat to public health.

It is only via a multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach that we can ensure success in the fight against this negative and life-threatening phenomenon.