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The Painful Costs of Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Photo: Image Source and Paul Alvord

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The World of Counterfeit Drugs

Counterfeit prescription pharmaceuticals are widely recognized as a growing public health risk and a serious concern to public health officials, private companies, and consumers. This slideshow presents a shortened overview of the longer report, found here.

In some countries around the world, counterfeit prescription drugs comprise as much as 70% of the drug supply and have been responsible for thousands of deaths in some of the world’s most impoverished nations, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, in most of the world’s developed countries, effective regulatory systems and market controls cause an extremely low proportion of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, usually below 1%. But even patients in developed countries can still be affected by counterfeit drugs, and deaths linked to counterfeit drugs occur every year in the U.S. and Western Europe — and even more often in South America, Asia and Africa.

The counterfeit pharmaceuticals industry is estimated to be a billion-dollar industry, and some have estimated it to be vastly larger. Peter Pitts, President of The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and former Food and Drug Administration Associate Commissioner, estimates that in 2010, activities related to counterfeit drugs generated $75 billion, and may grow by 20% annually in coming years. The $75 billion number is based on information obtained from government organizations, says Pitts. If this estimate is correct, the counterfeit pharmaceutical industry generates nearly as much cash as the world’s fourth-largest health care company by revenues, AmerisourceBergen, with revenues of approximately $79 billion over the last 12 months.

In this CNBC.com special report,we look at the world of counterfeit pharmaceuticals — from where they’re produced, to what is being done to combat them, to how they can hurt you.

By Paul Toscano
Posted 4 Oct 2011

Photo: Image Source and Paul Alvord