WHO’s Taskforce against Counterfeit Medicines in Asia

The World Health Organization (WHO) and various international partners came together in Germany November 2006 to develop a task force focused on preventing the global spread of counterfeit medicines. The International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce, or IMPACT would cover legal, technological, communications and regulatory issues to address the concerns of the growing trend of counterfeit drugs.

The WHO estimates that over 30% of medicines in some areas of South East Asia are counterfeit. In wealthier countries, the WHO estimates that almost 50% of medicines sold online are counterfeit.

For many countries, the laws and regulations of counterfeiting medicines are no more different than the laws and penalties of counterfeiting luxury items. With IMPACT, the WHO hopes to amend this issue in many countries and also provide a basis for regulations on the whole for counterfeit medicines.

Thailand, Malaysia and China are a few of the countries which have had various issues with counterfeit drugs. In fact, the Pharmaceutical Services Division under the Ministry of Health in Malaysia has confiscated over US $12 million worth of unregistered drugs in the last five years. China investigated over 300,000 reports of counterfeit drugs last year worth about US $6.3 million and closed 530 factories.

Some Asian countries have already begun to address counterfeiting issues with IMPACT’s support. Indonesia has begun campaigns to educate the public and Vietnam is working to coordinate between customs, regulatory and police to improve surveillance on counterfeit medicines.

WHO and IMPACT will present principles to help countries set up model legislations. They are also looking into technologies from mobile telephone companies to provide a system of authenticating drugs and confirming their authenticity. IMPACT is also looking into DNA-based technologies and nanotechnology. By the end of 2007, IMPACT hopes to have all 193 WHO Member States working together to curb the growing numbers of counterfeit medical products.