According to the World Health Organization, “Counterfeit drugs may erode public confidence in health care systems, health care professionals, the suppliers and sellers of genuine drugs, the pharmaceutical industry and national Drug Regulatory Authorities.” And, in an editorial, the editors of the Lancet ask, “So what should be done to tackle the growing problem of counterfeit medicines?”
The Lancet makes a strong and straightforward case for action. “The consequences of counterfeit drugs are diverse, as are the solutions, which lie in collective involvement, responsibility, and responses of all interested parties: health professionals, drug regulatory authorities, judicial entities, and drug companies at both national and international levels. Critical to this effort is strengthening of drug regulatory authorities, which should not only be responsible for improving drug standards, but also provide effective recognition of counterfeit drugs and assist other agencies in stopping their trade. This is especially needed in those countries that have either no drug regulation at all or an impaired or corrupted system. Additionally, enactment and enforcement of new laws for prohibiting counterfeit drugs is vital.”
And the editors ask the obvious and troubling question, “So why is there not yet an international fake drug treaty?”
We all know the answer.
The Lancet tells the often uncomfortable and undiplomatic truth that “the Indian and Brazilian Governments and some non-governmental organisations … believe it would confuse quality and intellectual property rights issues and thus undermine access to legitimate and much lower-cost generic medicines consumed mostly in poor areas.”
As Prashant Reddy opined in Spicy IP, “Every time an intellectual property issue is brought up by an international organization in the context of public health we presume that there is an 'imperialist/blood thirsty East India type corporation' conspiring against India. The level of paranoia is simply unbelievable. It is time India started acting like a responsible, confident nation before it decides to torpedo international negotiations. It would also be nice if the Government could start articulating its concerns in the language of public health and not in the language of the generic drug industry.”
It’s time to actively and aggressively pursue FDA Commissioner Peggy Hamburg’s call for a regulatory Marshall Plan to help build, nation-by-nation, global systems for both quality and safety.
Working together to raise the regulatory performance of all nations will help all nations create sound foundations to address a multitude of quality and safety dilemmas such the manufacturing of biosimilars, the control of API and excipient quality, pharmacovigilance and, yes, even counterfeiting.
And here’s the sharp tip of the Lancet, “The fight against counterfeit drugs must be strengthened without further delay. It needs consensus among all countries and interested parties, and requires wise and bold leadership from WHO. An indispensable goal of the campaign is ensuring the availability of genuine and affordable essential medicines in developing countries.”
Memo to New Delhi and Brasilia – get with the program … or get out of the way.