How to detect medicine

The WHO estimates that up to 1% of medicines available in high-income countries and 10% of drugs globally are likely to be counterfeit.

2023 Symposium on Public Health Strategies for Combating Counterfeit Drugs
December 1, 2023, at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center
555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001.

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As counterfeit medications proliferate, researchers work to alert doctors and patients to the risks.

Symposium Executive Summary

A first of its kind Symposium on public health strategies for combating counterfeit drugs.

be safe team

Symposium Report: 2023

The symposium, part of the BESAFE project, is supported with funding from Pfizer Inc.

Symposium Team

On Friday, December 1st, 2023, The 2023 Symposium on Public Health Strategies for Combating Counterfeit Drugs took place. This symposium was hosted by the Behavioral and Educational Strategies for Avoiding Falsified Medicine Exposure (BESAFE) team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The symposium brought together leaders, experts, and professionals to discuss the burden of counterfeit drugs and explore innovative strategies for public health safety. The theme of this symposium was paving the path for transformational partnerships between public health researchers, drug manufacturers and suppliers, regulatory and law enforcement agencies, policymakers, and program implementers to stop counterfeit medicine.

The symposium featured insightful and engaging research and panel discussions that was led by global experts in the field. These discussions specifically addressed the global burden of counterfeit drugs, public health responses to counterfeit drugs, intervention strategies for consumers and patients, intervention strategies for pharmacy services, intervention strategies for health care providers and intervention strategies input from policy advisors.

To view the Symposium Executive Summary or download the Full Symposium Report, click on the below.

Reporting counterfeit medicines is important to protect public health and prevent the spread of harmful and ineffective products. Here’s how you can report counterfeit medicines:

1. In most countries, there are regulatory authorities responsible for overseeing the safety and quality of medicines.

2. These agencies might have dedicated hotlines or online forms to report counterfeit medicines. 

How to check for counterfeit medicines?

Checking for counterfeit medicines requires a combination of vigilance, careful inspection, and verification. Here are steps you can take to check for counterfeit medicines: Read More

How to avoid counterfeit medicines?

No Country is Immune From The Threat of Counterfeit Drugs.

No country is immune; counterfeit drugs were found in every continent and almost every country, from Australia to Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria, to Panama.  According to the 2020 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report the primary countries from which adulterated pharmaceuticals originate are considered to be China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India. Read More

Counterfeit drugs are pervasive health threats to the global population

Pfizer’s analysis of suspected counterfeit viagra samples seized by drug regulatory authorities worldwide found that only 14% of samples were authentic. Of the UK samples, 51% of them were ordered via the Internet and 83% of these samples were counterfeit.More than 18 million atorvastatin tablets sold in the United Kingdom were recalled after the detection of a smuggling operation of counterfeit Pfizer’s Lipitor.

Important resources

Up to two billion people around the world lack access to necessary medicines, vaccines, medical devices including in vitro diagnostics,  and other health products, which creates a vacuum that is too often filled by substandard and falsified products. This problem is growing as global supply chains become more complex, meaning products manufactured in one country may be packaged in a second country and distributed across borders to be marketed or sold to consumers in a third.

World Substandard and falsified medical productsOrganization
FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program
Sharing Information on the Counterfeiting of Pharmaceuticals

Public health responses to counterfeit drugs

Although the adverse health impact of counterfeit and falsified medicines is catastrophic, it is difficult to measure the overall public health burden, the number of deaths and cases of complications, and economic loss due to counterfeit and illegal drugs. Read More

Public health responses to counterfeit drugs
A Scientist detecting medicine

Don’t worry, we didn’t
forget the details

The WHO estimates that up to 1% of medicines available in high-income countries and 10% of drugs globally are likely to be counterfeit. Laboratory examinations of medical products from 75 low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) by the WHO in 2017 show that 33.6 % of hypertension, cancer, epilepsy, analgesic uterotonics, and immunosuppressants drugs, 11.8 % of antimalarial drugs, 7.2 % of antibiotics and anti-in-effective products, 6.7 % of tuberculosis medicines, and 4.2 % of HIV medicines were falsified or substandard, while approximately 10.5 % of all pharmaceuticals may be falsified in those countries. A recent systematic review of 25 countries by Ozawa et al. found that 11–48% (median 28.5%) were substandard or counterfeit.18