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WHO calls for action on counterfeits

Published on 16/02/06 at 03:07pm

The World Health Organisation has called for 'immediate concrete' action against counterfeit medicines, which it says pose serious and sometimes fatal danger to patients around the world.

The organisation wants to put together a global task force involving all major stakeholders to introduce new legal measures, enforce existing laws and use high and low tech methods to fight the counterfeiting trade.

"People don't die from carrying a fake handbag or wearing a fake t-shirt. They can die from taking a counterfeit medicine," says Howard Zucker, assistant director general for health technology and pharmaceuticals at WHO.

"International police action against the factories and distribution networks should be as uncompromising as that applied to the pursuit of narcotic smuggling."

Estimates of the extent of counterfeiting are hard to make, but the WHO cites a report by the US Centre for Medicines in the Public Interest, which forecasts counterfeit drug sales to reach US$75 billion in 2010, a 92 % increase from 2005.

A conference in Rome, hosted by the countrys industry body the Italian Pharmaceutical Agency (AIFA) and Italian Cooperation has taken place to produce a new resolution to co-ordinate global action.

Pfizer recently became the first pharmaceutical company to introduce new

radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging to its products to allow it to track its medicines through the supply chain, choosing the much-counterfeited Viagra for its pilot programme.

WHO says cheaper existing methods can also be used to fight the counterfeit trade, which is highly lucrative and consequently attractive to criminal gangs.

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