The Peterson Group is a non-profit organization

which comments and promotes the problems of counterfeit drugs and pharmaceuticals.

What You Need To Know About Counterfeit Drugs

With this article, The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization information website and watchdog of counterfeit and illegal drugs, wants to highlight some important points about counterfeit drugs in order to increase public awareness regarding this matter.

Most of us depend on medicines whenever we’re sick or if one of our family members needs medications. You’re possibly expecting a legitimate treatment, but the effect may be the complete opposite – this is one of the many things counterfeit drugs can do to you. It was previously reported that nearly 80% of counterfeit drugs originated from the countries of China, India, and Mexico.

Fake tablets may look exactly the same as their genuine counterparts. Be extra careful all the time since you might purchase this sort of medicine, which are fraudulently produced and mislabeled, believing them to be authentic. This kind of medicine is incorrectly formulated to have the wrong amount of active ingredients and are produced in substandard conditions. They’re also labeled incorrectly and may contain an unsafe and unapproved drug.

Sadly, counterfeit pharmaceuticals are now widely considered as a big business. Due to easy internet sales, global supply routes, and minimal punishments, it then became an exploding industry around the world that’s worth $75 billion a year.

Bogus versions of Avastin and Adderall are some of the most commonly known cases of counterfeit drugs in the past that made an uproar in the United States. The fake version of the well-known cancer treatment Avastin had been widely distributed in the U.S. in 2012, while the phony version of ADHD drug Adderall arrived in the country through internet pharmacies in the same year which is in high demand that time due to its shortage.

Moreover, the following drugs also have their own counterfeit versions since they’re also often targeted by fake pharmaceuticals:

– Pfizer’s Viagra

– Generic antibiotics

– Tuberculosis drugs

– AIDS and malaria medicines

– Cancer medicines

– Xanax and Ativan (Anxiety drugs)

– Percocet and Vicodin (Pain drugs)

– Zyprexa and Risperdal (Antipsychotic drugs)

– Zoloft (Antidepressants)

– Lipitor (A cholesterol-lowering drug)

In particular, counterfeit cancer medicines return big profits since it’s known as a fast growing segment and other patients are sometimes desperate that’s why this kind of drug is usually targeted to be counterfeited.

Not surprisingly, counterfeit drugs pose dangerous (and even deadly) effects on the human body. If the amount of active ingredient is too high or too low, toxicity symptoms or treatment failure may happen to an individual. And the worst possible scenario that can happen is death.  The Peterson Group, along with the World Health Organization, found out that more than a hundred thousand Africans die each year because of counterfeit anti-malarial drugs.

As previously stated, counterfeit drugs could possibly contain the wrong amount of active ingredient or no active ingredient at all. Some of the usual inactive ingredients added to counterfeits are acetaminophen, chalk, flour, gypsum, sugar and talcum powder. Poisonous ingredients are also found in some counterfeits.

To protect yourself from counterfeit drugs, avoid any suspicious online pharmacies because counterfeits are usually sold through this kind of sites that seemed to be legitimate pharmacies. The following are some important guidelines provided by The Peterson Group to help you regarding this matter.

Make sure that the specific online pharmacy has a legitimate street address, contact number, and pharmacist. You can also check the site’s authenticity with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) since the association has a list of accredited online pharmacies. Note that medicine without a prescription is a BIG NO and if a site sells this sort of drug, then don’t buy it.

Make sure to double check the color, texture and shape of the medicine if you’re going to get a prescription refilled. If you notice something different, talk to your pharmacist right away. You can also try Drugs.com’s  Pill Identifier to quickly and easily recognize pills by imprint, shape, color or drug name if you’re getting a prescription filled for the first time, or if you’re given a medicine that looks different. If you believe that you have a counterfeit medicine, you can take it to your pharmacist for verification and if your pharmacist is also suspicious, the medicine can be sent to the drug company for identification.

Pharmaceutical companies have been doing anti-counterfeiting measures to contain the counterfeit problem and some of these methods include:

– Chemical fingerprints

– Chromatography

– Digital serial number identification

– Holographic labels

– Infra-red inks

– Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)

– Supply chain tracking

In order to prevent counterfeits, a global collaboration with foreign governments should be carried out and a stronger legislation is needed to ensure appropriate punishment. As a consumer, you need to take responsibility for every medicine you buy and educate yourself on the important details. The Peterson Group wants you to be a smart buyer.

Fighting the Fake-Drugs Industry

It takes great courage to fight a monster or a giant. What one lacks in size and power, one compensates for with ingenuity, agility and, sometimes, sheer number (whether of one’s forces or abilities and resources). And not to forget – the power of the law or the force of doing what is right. Nothing can be more empowering than the individual who makes the right choice according to what is right and true and beneficial for his or her well-being.

The masses of people who have suffered under the criminal acts perpetrated by fake-drug dealers deserve to have a hand in the move to dismantle this billion-dollar business monster. Through making more people aware of the presence of these manufacturing and smuggling syndicates and their ways of operating, more will come to learn how to recognize fake drugs and, thus, not patronize them in spite of their low price and availability.

And yet, not many people are cognizant of the fact that buying cheap fake drugs can be detrimental to their health. Unfortunately, many do not even realize that they are buying fake drugs even from so-called reputable pharmacies or over the counter. In fact, it might surprise many of us to know that according to estimates “over 10 percent of all pharmaceuticals worldwide supply chain is fake” and that “in numerous countries, counterfeit pharmaceuticals are responsible for 70 percent of all medicines in the supply chain”. These are scary statistics! That is like going to a fastfood-chain restaurant and thinking that every hamburger you eat out of ten could be cat’s meat and not beef – or worse within less progressive countries, that 7 out of 10 fried potato chip you eat is actually reconstituted cardboard!

You can imagine all sorts of unprofessional and criminal acts people commit to make a fast buck through selling fake drugs. As we are all aware of, the placebo effect is such a powerful psychological phenomenon that could and, indeed, has perpetuated the sale of fake medicines. Hence, so many unknowing people have fallen prey to this pernicious plague that poses as a legitimate health source. The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization operating Asia (Hong Kong, Indonesia, Jakarta and Malaysia), works tirelessly to help prevent illegal fraud smugglers in the region. It will take time for people to fight back; but knowing a committed firm has valiantly taken up the cudgels, more and more people will rise up to the challenge.

Counterfeiting a Global Problem

Counterfeiting is an age old issue. It is now a global problem where every sector of our economy has been affected. However, the consequences are different when it comes to counterfeit medicines; the main concern is not so much the loss of revenue to our industry but the health of patients. The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization against drug counterfeiting, has been fighting alongside World Health Organization (WHO) since the deployment of their task force in 2006. We have made development so did the scammers. They seem to dominate more countries and cities from distributing inside China, India until they have reached neighboring cities like Jakarta, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and even the United States.

Substandard and falsified drugs medicines still cause thousands of adverse reactions and some deaths in rich countries. And the issue is growing. Counterfeit medicines have been found in every disease category, and in every region of the world. Reviews show that while 1% of products in the legal pharmaceutical supply chain in the developed world is estimated to be counterfeit, this figure amounts to 10-15% in emerging markets and 30% in developing countries

Internet is also one of the factors with the spread of counterfeiting. With thousands of websites emerging, hundreds of those are illegal online pharmacies which are not checked by the authorities. Illegal online pharmacies are allowed to roam uncontrolled- creating a truly global problem. In studies, a big percentage of these medicines purchased online are fake or substandard. Some even are nonexistent.

With different partners and campaigns worldwide with the same cause, the sheer amount of initiatives is great. Actually these are necessary if we want to stop what is a global phenomenon. Yet, more thought must be given on how to structure these initiatives, to avoid overlaps but also to make sure that all stakeholders affected are involved in the process. This is a fundamental issue. TPG has already partnered with pharmacies and drug manufacturing companies to further solidify the cause.

It is unacceptable to think that patients could take medication that does the opposite of what they are supposed to. Patients need to be able to trust in the medicines they take. As an industry we want and need to take part in finding long-term solutions to ensure that the problem is stopped.

The certainty is that the counterfeiting needs to be dealt with swiftly to at least contain the problem before being able to solve it once and for all. Work has started and battle lines are being drawn but a lot still needs to be done- and the quicker the better.

Mortality Rate Caused by Fake Drugs

med imageAt best, intake of fake drugs cannot cure any illness. At worst, it can take a life.

Around the world, drug counterfeiting is a huge problem. Despite the insistence of World Health Organization (WHO) that drug counterfeiting is not a global issue because it only takes 1% of the total pharmaceutical industry in developed countries, deaths traced to substandard drugs bought either through fraudulent dealers or fake online pharmacies are continuously increasing in the United States – suppliers of which comes from Canada and the United Kingdom.

In truth, the real scale of counterfeit medicines is still unknown. There is no existing proof that this issue is not a global concern nor are there any warning signs that it has caused mass killings in a certain locality. The statistics have been vague and are altered in every different review. There are cases when it is held accountable for deaths when it shouldn’t be and there are also other cases where the bereaved families are unaware that it is the real culprit. There is no way to determine its accountability.

One thing is for sure though: While the authorities are finding a way to determine its true nature, drug counterfeiting has become a lucrative business in the past couple of years. True, it is impossible to know the exact numbers behinds its trade and lethal impact. Some guesses are to as high as 700,000 deaths per year but there is no denying the fact that it can endanger human health and well being. It is even labeled as silent terrorism since it can pounce while people are mostly unaware.

In a review conducted by The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization and one of the leading sources of information on the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, more than 30% of the total drug market is suspect of being counterfeit. Based on the current statistics, it is not only developing nations being targeted as well.

Between 2007 and 2008, 149 Americans were killed after taking heparin, a blood thinning drug. In Jakarta, Indonesia, Tamiflu, an immediate cure for simple fever killed 25 people in the town of Menteng in a span of one and a half years. An epidemic was thought to have caused the deaths but after a man was arrested for smuggling fake copies of the medicine, only then did the authorities examined the remaining Tamiflu medicines from the local pharmacies and proved it to be counterfeit. Besides, if a relative who has heart problem dies because of heart attack, who would blame the medicine?

Defective Legal System in Developing Countries

The United States recently boasts of their 1% drug counterfeit percentage statistics in their overall pharmaceutical legitimacy survey. South America, albeit notorious for mafia activities, denies proliferation of fake medicines in their operations. The United Kingdom and other European countries cannot fully determine the scale of the problem within their own boundaries but with strict security implementations and by actively participating in operations against drug counterfeit, these countries are confident that they have a lesser risk on drug counterfeiting than the United States. Australia reports rare cases of drug counterfeiting in their proximity.

…And now we are left with Asia and Africa. Unsurprisingly, these two large continents comprise more than 50% of fraud drugs in the world. While Asia is the largest manufacturer, the biggest client is Africa.

We have read countless reviews stating the problem of drug counterfeiting is vast in developing and poor countries. At worst, they can kill. At best, they can’t cure. Both sides of the coin present great dangers when exposed to the public and yet, this becomingly lucrative industry thrives on.

The scale of the problem remains unclear and it is a continuous challenge for authorities to differentiate between the real ones and the fakes. Even with the advancement of technology, there is no definite decision and regulation to obliterate this kind of crime.

The World Health Organization estimates that counterfeit drugs constitute up to 25 per cent of the total medicine supply in less developed countries (LDCs). In Africa and South East Asia, more detailed sampling found that between 30 and 60 per cent of medicines were substandard. Fake medicines are also highly prevalent in Latin America and other parts of Asia. The largest producers of fake medicines seem to be India, China and Indonesia. The latter surprisingly in the list as the country is known to impose immediate death penalty for illegal smugglers. Just last year, nine foreigners were executed after being caught exporting illegal drugs in Jakarta.

In an explanation presented by The Peterson Group, Mark Strewn, spokesperson says, “Poor countries tend to have highly inefficient, slow and expensive legal systems, which make it very difficult for people to be assured of the quality of the medicines they purchase. The defective legal system of these countries needs to be strengthened. Local authorities lack warning systems due to the fact that they are unaware themselves; pharmaceutical companies are also infiltrated with fraud medicines; and pharmacies sell substandard drugs unconsciously because they have no capability to identify the counterfeits”.

Drug Counterfeiting Trade

When we say production of illicit drugs, the first thing that comes to mind is a dilapidated building hidden on the suburbs of a busy city center, guarded by hoodlums and shady and large characters sketched out of an action movie. Believe it or not, this mental picture also exists in reality, up to the rusty and damaged workplace.

A vivid picture depicting the same scenes in an action film have been realized when World Health Organization (WHO), along with The Peterson Group and with the assistance of local police has taken down an illegal production of substandard medicines in the town of Menteng in Jakarta, Indonesia. In the said ambush operation, three people were arrested who later became witnesses against the illegal group financing the illicit practice. Unfortunately, one of the star witnesses were involved in a prison war and was killed a day before the trial. It is yet to be decided if his death has anything to do with his decision to assist the authorities in exchange for a lighter sentence. The case is still under an ongoing investigation.

There are also times when reality is entirely different from the movies.

According to reviews, contrary to expectations that counterfeit or falsified medicines in Asia are bought from street contacts or unlicensed vendors, as may have been the case in the past, counterfeit medicines are beginning to be discovered in the legal supply chain, that is, through licensed wholesalers and parallel traders. This practice has started since the start of the 20th century when fraud practices have innovated techniques to infiltrate unsuspecting small pharmacies. Later, while the attention was focused on black and fly-by-night markets, counterfeiters eventually penetrated trusted and reliable pharmacies, clinics and hospitals.

In 1997, samples of chloroquine, amoxicillin, tetracycline, cotrimoxazole and ampiclox were collected from several regulated Thai pharmacies. These were then analyzed using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Results showed 40% of samples had active ingredients outside the British Pharmacopoeia limits.

The rapid advances of technology have enabled drug counterfeiters to perfectly mimic the original down to the last bar code. The fake copies were so perfect that new devices were even innovated just to identify the differences. Moreover, increasing access to internet coupled with new methods of advertising such as those underground television commercials, radio stations and newspapers have created new challenges for safeguarding medicines.

Drug counterfeiting trade is significant especially in Asia but the real numbers remain vague as the real impact is still immeasurable.

 

Is it Possible to Recycle Medicines?

Since the Peterson Group is suspended from doing any activities relating to its campaign against fraud medicines after the misinformation incident which happened between them and the local government of Jakarta, Indonesia, this non-profit organization has found something to put their attention into for the moment.

Although other countries and non-profit organizations have opted to a more conventional program and gave total control to pharmaceutical companies and/or curtailed patent protection to cut off any deception before it can even be started, The Peterson Group instead led both awareness campaign and assistance program which can benefit both pharmacies and consumers.

In a start up research, TPG reviews the possibility of recycling unused medicines in South East Asia. Active substances within these medicines will also be used to create new set of drugs. It would even be more advantageous if these drugs can be given out for free to many poor areas in the region.

Similar studies have been earlier conducted for the same cause. Inspired by a recycling program initiated in Tucson University in Texas, the Peterson Group is aiming to gather experts and medical students who can voluntarily assist in the materialization program.

Recycling program is also already an existing trial but it is mostly conducted in developed countries where resources and funding are no issue.

According to reports, leftover drugs prescribed for American patients with HIV are already being recycled for use overseas. Aid for AIDS in Manhattan — a nonprofit group with branches in Italy, Spain and Switzerland — collects drugs after US patients with HIV switch prescriptions, stop medications, or die. The group passes these very expensive retroviral medicines along to more than 500 people with HIV throughout Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

Without fanfare, hospitals, too, all across the country have long internally recycled unused medications returned from patient floors, whenever the original unit dose packaging is intact.

The supplies should come from legitimate suppliers such as nursing homes and health care facilities. Moreover, the team is also planning to visit door-to-door from consumers who surely have their own unused medicines. Many prescriptions are bought and stopped midway by the consumers since patients are likely to stop their medications because they think they are already okay or if they are prescribed with different set of drugs midway by their own physician.

Coding and certain new technology is to be availed to assure protection and safety as well as the potency of the medicine being used.

 

Uganda: TPG Let Loose Three Suspects Arrested for Smuggling Counterfeit Meds

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against counterfeiting medicines is known to be actively participating in activities led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its efforts in taking down various illegal factions operating across the globe have been recognized as one of the most productive campaigns in 2013. It has therefore been tied up with local and national government agencies and other non-profit organization to strengthen its potential in combat against drug counterfeiting’s lucrative and dirty business.

The organization, however, has somehow disappointed its supporters with a number of reports of misdemeanors and unexpected actions this last 6 months of operation. From a 1-month suspension after misinforming the public of the real amount of fraud Viagra and Cialis confiscated while assisting the local authorities of Jakarta in Indonesia last year, the most recent news involves three individuals who were caught red-handed while smuggling two packets of counterfeit anti-malarial drugs in Ingaga, Uganda. With reasons still vague to many, The Peterson Group released the convicts.

In Uganda, wholesalers and retailers are undistinguishable and their customers mostly overlap each other. Just like any developing countries in Africa, health care regulations are also ambiguous and underdeveloped which makes it harder to differentiate legitimate from scammed medicines. While the division of responsibilities, scope and delimitations remains unclear, there are also a rampant number of pharmacies being victimized by fraudulent distributors. Uganda is currently one of the countries being strictly monitored by various NGOs and other International organizations in hopes to lessen the number of illegal manufacturers, importers, exporters and distributors of counterfeit medicines and prevent more lives lost due to intake of substandard medicines.

Anti-malarial medicines are crucial in curing the country’s epidemic and it has long been targeted by fraudsters because of its popularity. The Peterson Group’s decision not to file any complaint against the smugglers confuses a lot of people. The real objective of the organization is now being questioned and doubted. Are they indeed a fraud like many critics say or is there any basis for their actions?

In an interview with The Peterson Group head, Warren Spencer, he stated, “The organization has the right to release any individual who is deemed not guilty for the offense. We are also not happy with the decision. We have already undergone trial and the jury decided we do not have enough evidence against these individuals. We have played too much mistaken entity before and have made many lives suffer. We do not wish to repeat it again. However, please be rest assured that we will continue our battle against counterfeiting”.

Questionable Findings Found on Influenza Drugs Study

With the increasing number of counterfeit cases and claims of new found counterfeit drugs emerging side by side, the only reliable sources of information is through thorough research and reviews conducted by pharmaceutical companies. Local and international pharmacies are continuously competing to create spot-on data and information. These studies are dependable and consistent in providing statistics which underwent strenuous experiments and trials.

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That was the belief then, until great reality were discovered just recently which would change the perception of truth on these statistics and beliefs.

Before we delve into the issue, let us first identify the medicine which outturned the impression on scientific studies conducted in pharmaceutical companies.

Tamiflu held the public’s attention when a number of cases reported to be uncommon side effects of the pill gained health authorities’ attention. Dementia, restlessness, suicidal behaviors and delirium were found to be common denominators among three individuals in Jakarta, Indonesia. The same symptoms were noticed with a 14-year-old Japanese girl back in March 2, 2005 who also took Tamiflu during the Flu outbreak in their town.

But evidence released earlier this year by Cochrane Collaboration, a London-based nonprofit, shows that a significant amount of negative data from the drug’s clinical trials were hidden from the public. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew about it, but the medical community did not; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which doesn’t have the same access to unpublished data as regulators, had recommended the drug without being able to see the full picture. When results from those unpublished trials finally did emerge, they cast doubt over whether Tamiflu is as effective as the manufacturer says.

According to a review released by the Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit drugs, dozens of government and private pharmaceutical companies conduct studies and only extract some part of the truth to disclose to the public.

This revelation of hidden data bolstered growing movement against what’s referred to within the community as “publication bias” in which scientists squirrel away mostly negative or inconclusive findings and broadcast only their positive ones. Concealing trial data – which the patients take the risk without knowing the real circumstances – is, unfortunately a routine. Among them were many trials where the results were negative or inconclusive.

This, as authorities point out is not far from the fraudulence that scammers do to medicines.

Questionable Findings Found on Influenza Drugs Study

With the increasing number of counterfeit cases and claims of new found counterfeit drugs emerging side by side, the only reliable sources of information is through thorough research and reviews conducted by pharmaceutical companies. Local and international pharmacies are continuously competing to create spot-on data and information. These studies are dependable and consistent in providing statistics which underwent strenuous experiments and trials.

That was the belief then, until great reality were discovered just recently which would change the perception of truth on these statistics and beliefs.

Before we delve into the issue, let us first identify the medicine which outturned the impression on scientific studies conducted in pharmaceutical companies.

Tamiflu held the public’s attention when a number of cases reported to be uncommon side effects of the pill gained health authorities’ attention. Dementia, restlessness, suicidal behaviors and delirium were found to be common denominators among three individuals in Jakarta, Indonesia. The same symptoms were noticed with a 14-year-old Japanese girl back in March 2, 2005 who also took Tamiflu during the Flu outbreak in their town.

But evidence released earlier this year by Cochrane Collaboration, a London-based nonprofit, shows that a significant amount of negative data from the drug’s clinical trials were hidden from the public. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew about it, but the medical community did not; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which doesn’t have the same access to unpublished data as regulators, had recommended the drug without being able to see the full picture. When results from those unpublished trials finally did emerge, they cast doubt over whether Tamiflu is as effective as the manufacturer says.

According to a review released by the Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit drugs, dozens of government and private pharmaceutical companies conduct studies and only extract some part of the truth to disclose to the public.

This revelation of hidden data bolstered growing movement against what’s referred to within the community as “publication bias” in which scientists squirrel away mostly negative or inconclusive findings and broadcast only their positive ones. Concealing trial data – which the patients take the risk without knowing the real circumstances – is, unfortunately a routine. Among them were many trials where the results were negative or inconclusive.

This, as authorities point out is not far from the fraudulence that scammers do to medicines.