Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death and disease worldwide, killing more than 36 million people in 2008, with nearly 80% of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. And they’re projected to increase by 15% globally between 2010 and 2020.
The good news is the world’s recognition of the problem (World Health Organization’s Action Plan on NCDs, the Moscow Ministerial Declaration, the United Nations Civil Society Hearings in New York).
The bad news is that this could easily become next great insidious opportunity for drug counterfeiters. The false profits of fake statins, beta-blockers, ace inhibitors, etc. could be huge – as would the public health consequences.
And these counterfeit medicines will flood the developing world unless public health officials, law enforcement, and manufacturers get a jump on the issue. The way to combat this frightening problem is to stop it before it starts.
Unfortunately (at least to date) this has not been the general approach to addressing counterfeit medicines. Meetings and discussion must now morph into planning and action. As Peggy Hamburg said last year at a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations, the new reality for food and drug regulation is that it’s global and should be a topic for conversation at the next meeting of the G20. She warned that the recent crises in both food and drug safety will only repeat themselves unless regulatory agencies from around the world work in closer and more regular partnership.
We mustn’t allow Lipitor to become the new Viagra. Counterfeiting doesn’t need a new posterchild. It needs to be fought – and defeated.