In times of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, when demand for basic medical equipment and treatments is increasing exponentially, unfortunately, there is always someone looking to make a quick buck - ‘meeting’ that demand with counterfeit medicines.
Their reasons are simple: it’s hugely profitable, the risk of detection is low, the risk of prosecution is even lower and the penalties are weak. But the impact on patients can be huge: from simple adverse effects to failure to cure or prevent disease progression (increasing mortality, morbidity and prevalence of disease) to active harm and impact on health (including death). From face masks, gloves, hand sanitizers to over the counter medicines like paracetamol and specialized drugs like antibiotics and painkillers the counterfeiters are turning a profit from the COVID-19 crisis. More information can be found in the recently published ‘Trade in Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products’ OECD report, available here.
Pay attention to the logo
There has never been a more important time to stress the need for patients and consumers at large to only buy their medicines from legitimate, trusted sources. In fact, given the current pandemic outbreak and the problems posed by restrictions to individual movement implemented by most countries, more and more Europeans are turning to the internet and home deliveries to meet (some of) their basic necessities. There is a significant risk that, when it comes to medicines, they might turn to questionable online suppliers. To help, the EU has introduced a common logo for legally operating online pharmacies/retailers in EU countries. One of the measures to fight against falsified medicines, the logo vouches for the authenticity of the websites and guarantees the safety of the products. The list of registered online medicines retailers can be found here.
Regulations are your friend
Medicine safety should always be a priority, not least in a pandemic. Patients need to be able to trust that the medicines they take are of high quality, safe and effective. In times like these, a strong and robust regulatory system makes sure this is what happens. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and regulatory authorities are working around the clock to make sure that medicines are delivered to patients across Europe when they are needed. When delivering those medicines, it is crucially important that no falsified medicines penetrate the supply chain. In the EU, the European Falsified Medicines Directive 2011/62/EU makes sure that happens, by imposing additional requirements on manufacturers and supply chain operators up to and including pharmacies. Now is the time to double down on our efforts and make sure of its proper implementation.