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Fancier Fakes: Makers Of Bogus Prescription Drugs Pose New Challenges

January 6, 2010

Manufacturers of counterfeit prescription drugs are embracing new tactics to deal with an estimated $75-billion-year market in knockoffs, a battle that is far from being won. That’s the focus of an article in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine. Counterfeiting ploys include embracing the same technology that pharmaceutical companies use to identify their products as genuine.

C&EN Associate Editor Sarah Everts notes that today’s fake drugs do not just look like the real thing, they may contain small amounts of real active ingredients to thwart testers or fool patients into thinking they’re getting better. Sometimes bogus pills contain unexpected drugs, such as Viagra in counterfeit malaria medicine. Unfortunately, fake drugs also may contain toxic ingredients, such as the fake cough medicines and killed hundreds of people in Nigeria, Panama, and Bangladesh in recent years. Drug counterfeiters are also using holograms and other security features to make their packaging look identical to the genuine thing.

The article describes how law enforcement officials and other anti-counterfeiters are responding with new security approaches. Yet any new security features for packaging last only about 18 months before counterfeiters can produce mimics, according to the article.

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