Originally published by the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy on the 28th July 2019.
It’s estimated that 1 in 10 medical products in developing nations are substandard or falsified – a problem that the COVID-19 pandemic has exaggerated. That’s where Fight the Fakes comes in, a global campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of falsified and substandard medicines…
Founded in 2013 by 10 members, the Fight the Fakes campaign was born out of necessity to raise awareness on the dangers of substandard and falsified medicines. Although both can cause irreparable harm, substandard medicines are authorised medical products that fail to meet quality standards, while falsified medicines have little to no active ingredient and are manufactured with a criminal intent to illegally distribute them. Seven years later, the campaign now has 40 partners representing civil society, patient organisations, academia, and industry. The campaign’s vision is to build a global movement of organisations and individuals to raise awareness on the dangers of fake and poor-quality medicines and to increase efforts on the global health policy level to tackle this issue. To achieve this, Fight the Fakes is undertaking diverse activities, ranging from awareness raising on social media, gathering key news and global and regional policy development around falsified medicines, sharing stories from those who have personally fallen victim to fake medicines, publishing opinion pieces and facilitating interviews in international media, and hosting events.
In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported than 1 in 10 medical products in developing nations are substandard or falsified. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how widespread the problem is and countries developed and developing alike, have seen a continuous rise in reports. The parallel ‘infodemic’ we are witnessing with the rampant spread of misinformation and medical shortages has created an ecosystem where criminals can capitalise on peoples’ fears and sell falsified COVID-19 treatments, vaccines and even ‘cures’. Fight the Fakes released a statement to address this and also created a hub to highlight the great work our partner organisations are doing to tackle this. In collaboration with our partner the International Council of Nurses (ICN), we also published an op-ed to highlight the importance of investing in nurses and the broader health workforce to protect communities against fake medicines, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Particularly in 2019, Fight the Fakes transitioned from being a predominantly social media and media campaign to gaining considerable recognition among global health stakeholders and in global health policy spheres. On the side-lines of the 2019 World Health Assembly, we held a highly successful event to spotlight digital innovations being used to combat falsified medicines. Over 150 participants attended from all over the world, and our dedicated hashtag #FightTheFakes became the number 1 trending tweet in Geneva, further amplifying our key message.
Looking ahead the campaign is eager to engage in policy dialogues, facilitate educational reform to train the health workforce and have a stronger presence in the global health sphere. To effectively combat the rising issue of substandard and falsified medicines, a global response is essential. All relevant stakeholders must engage in collaborative partnerships to educate health care professionals and the public, secure the safety of medical supply chains, implement regulatory frameworks, and enact laws to protect communities from counterfeit medical products.