February 21, 2006

The World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the growing threat of counterfeit pharmaceuticals at a conference in Rome. Meanwhile, parallel traders have defended themselves against accusations of involvement in fake drugs at meetings in Brussels and London.

The WHO is calling for all industry stakeholders to invest in low and high-tech solutions for detection of counterfeits at all phases of manufacturing, distribution and commercialisation. Drug counterfeiting occurs all countries and is thought to represent 10% of the global medicines trade, with sales expected to reach US$75bn in 2010, a 92% increase from 2005.

At the start of the Brussels conference, organisers denied claims that all parallel traders were "profiteers masquerading as pharmacists", as allegedly described in the event programme. The European Association of Euro-Pharmaceutical Companies (EAEPC) has threatened legal action over what it considers a slanderous attack on its members.

An EAEPC spokesperson added that far from abetting counterfeiting, the organisation's members had several times intercepted poor quality or incorrectly packaged drugs.

These exchanges preceded events at a London conference where Richard Freudenberg, Secretary General of the British Association of European Pharmaceutical Distributors, defined parallel distribution as a "completely legal, thoroughly regulated, highly desirable, mature and safe industrial activity, which offers a number of benefits to healthcare systems, but which is subject to disproportionate attack by some pharmaceutical manufacturers."