Increased penalties for counterfeit drugs in Thailand

Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to increase fines on importers, sellers, and manufacturers of fake drugs. Currently, the FDA is proposing to amend Drug Act of B.E. 2510 where manufacturers can be fined up to 5 million baht (about US$168,000) while importers and sellers can be fined up to 2 million baht (about US$67,000).

Based on the current Drug Act of B.E. 2510, fake drug manufacturers can be imprisoned for life with a maximum fine of 50,000 baht (about US$1,681). Fake drug importers and sellers can be jailed for up to 20 years with a maximum fine of 10,000 baht (about US$336). The new amendment would not change the jail terms, but would increase the maximum fines as outlined above.

According to Thailand’s FDA, almost $30 million worth of counterfeit drugs are sold in the country each year. The most common fake drugs are those indicated for treating AIDS, bird flu, malaria, tuberculosis, anti-obesity, and erectile dysfunction. However, fake drugs account for a very small percentage of the market – drug consumption in Thailand is about $3 billion with $1.4 billion worth of imported drugs.

Thailand’s focus on counterfeit drugs follows its participation in a regional ASEAN-China conference in November 2007. The conference, with the aid of Interpol, the World Health Organization and other groups, aimed at increasing enforcement of WHO’s IMPACT program.

IMPACT, standing for International Medical Product Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce, started in 2006. It will have its first global forum in February 2008 in Singapore. IMPACT is working on legislation and enforcement against counterfeit drugs globally by drafting up guidelines and establishing five working groups.

WHO estimates that counterfeit drugs make up more than 25 percent of the medical market in developing countries.