Interpol, Drug Companies to Fight Pharmaceutical Crime

Interpol and 29 major pharmaceutical companies will spend almost $6 million to combat the pharmaceutical crimes that threaten millions of lives, the agency announced Tuesday. 

Pharmaceutical crime includes the production, trade and distribution of fake, stolen or illicit medicines and medical devices, and associated crimes including money laundering and smuggling.

The collaboration aims to prevent and reduce drug counterfeiting and will target the organized crime syndicates involved in the fake drug market.

The fake drug trade, which is worth millions of dollars annually, is a serious health and safety risk for individuals; it can “mean the difference between life and death,” Christopher Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi said in an Interpol press release. Customers who take counterfeit drugs risk more than wasting money on substances that fail to treat their condition; the drugs they buy can and have caused adverse reactions and worse. Counterfeit drug traffickers produce “substandard” medicines, and the results can be deadly: in 2006 in Panama over 100 people, many of them children, died after ingesting counterfeit cough syrup; and in 2012, over 100 people in Pakistan died after taking fake medicine for heart conditions, according to Interpol. 

The funding for the joint initiative will create a “Pharmaceutical Crime Programme” at Interpol.  The agreement also stresses the need for training and awareness surrounding the issue of counterfeit drugs and general pharmaceutical crime.

"Putting an end to counterfeiting requires broad, coordinated action on a global scale. This new initiative between the pharmaceutical industry and INTERPOL is aimed at helping ensure that patients can trust in the safety and efficacy of the medicines they rely on,” Dr. John C. Lechleiter, chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Co., said in the press release.