The counterfeiting of medicines is not in itself a recent phenomenon. Yet, over the last decade, the scale of the traffic has reached a particularly worrying threshold: the proliferation of fake medicines now threatens the health of hundreds of thousands of patients across all five continents.

Today, the falsification of drugs should be treated as a global health priority.

1. An omnipresent threat 

Historically, given the risks of falsification of pharmaceutical products, people have been forced to realize that a drug is unlike other consumer products. Any defect in its quality may cause a patient’s death. On a large scale, the health risks are considerable.

Thus, in the United States and as early as 1820, US Pharmacopeia established the first quality standards governing medicines. This first list included 217 medicinal products which met the criteria “the more fully established and the better understood”. Since that time, all actors involved in the preservation of the safety of populations (Governments, health authorities, pharmaceutical laboratories, pharmacists, etc.) have constantly strived to secure drugs and their supply chain from the manufacturer to the patient.


2. A widely exceeded alert threshold 

Gravity of the facts, magnitude and globalization of the phenomenon, speed of progression of the threat, etc. Whatever the measurement criterion, in the global traffic in fake medicines, all indicators (however imperfect they are) show that the situation is more than critical.

In addition, the traffic of fake medicines is by nature a hidden crime and the unofficial figures (i.e. the estimate of the number of crimes unknown to the enforcement authorities) can be considerable.


3. Issues at stake: the global balance threatened

Counterfeit drugs kill hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Faced with this reality, the central concern is health.