According to several alarming new reports, the counterfeit drug industry is booming. In fact, according to a USA Today piece and a news segment by Dan Rather, the counterfeit drug industry brings in between $75 and $200 billion a year. These counterfeit medications can range from harmless to extremely dangerous: they either are impotent or toxic, but you can never be sure which it’s going to be. In other words, counterfeit medications pose a russian roulette game of chance for consumers that rely on these drugs for their health and well-being.
Last year alone, there were an estimated 1,700 incidences of counterfeit medications worldwide, which is triple what it was in 2004. According to experts, the growth of the market is attributable to the difficulty of detecting counterfeit medications. Unfortunately, the problem is only expected to get worse: a weak economy along with higher drug prices means more consumers will seek out cheaper alternatives online or from other unauthorized dealers. In total, there were about 800 fake versions of pharmaceutical products on the market last year, most of which came from drug rings in China, India, and other parts of Asia.
In many countries, the penalties for selling counterfeit drugs aren’t very stringent. China, however, has begun to step up its efforts related to the detection and seizure of counterfeit drugs. As a result of the rise of the counterfeit drug industry, pharmaceutical companies are also investing considerable resources to protect their products. For pharmaceutical companies it isn’t just a question of profits, but their reputation, as consumers’ lives are put as risk by fake medications posing as the real thing.