The EUIPO and the OECD have published a study analysing the volume and impact of global trade of counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
The report, which analyses nearly half a million seizures made by customs authorities and international police between 2014 and 2016, states that the most affected products are antibiotics and painkillers. China and India are the source countries for most of these counterfeit products, while Singapore and Hong Kong are the main transit points.
According to the study, the market for counterfeit medicines reached EUR 4 billion in 2016, impacting the economy of this sector and seriously endangering public health.
A significant route of entry into the supply chain for these products is through second-tier wholesale distributors, who have limited means for detecting counterfeit products and packaging. In this process, free trade customs areas also play a key role, providing a platform for the packaging and repackaging of products, thus concealing their true origin.
While the challenge of combating this phenomenon affects all countries, developing countries are more vulnerable as their distribution channels are less secure and reliable.
In addition, one of the factors that has contributed most to the proliferation of trade of counterfeit medicines has been the increase of small parcel and courier shipments that make it more difficult for customs to identify them.
The study concludes that up to 169 000 children may die each year from taking counterfeit medicines for pneumonia and that up to 116 000 deaths may be caused by fake pharmaceuticals for malaria treatment.
In terms of economic impact, US companies are most affected (38% of counterfeits affect their companies’ IP rights) and the revenue foregone by EU governments amounts to 1.7 billion Euros.
The full report and executive summary can be read here.