Dr Judy Stone, Infectious Disease specialist, recently talked about Fight the Fakes work and the risks of fake medicines in Forbes magazine.
The author started the article by describing the grim situation of the black market for fake Covid-19 vaccines and vaccination cards which has been rapidly growing worldwide, increasing by more than 400% just over the last year, according to CheckPoint.
People have been taking advantage of crisis and vulnerable people for years, producing and selling falsified products as medical products to unwary patients, putting their health and lives at risks. The COVID-19 pandemic, insufficient medical equipment, medicines and vaccines for all just gave them another opportunity to gain from the misery of others.
We thank the author for praising Fight The Fakes as a valuable association in the fight against falsified medicines.
Falsified and substandard medicines are thought to amount to 10% of global medicines, and tracking them is difficult. Today, medicines go through a manufacturing process that involves a variety of countries, while active pharmaceutical ingredients might come from a country, packing, and shipping might occur in a different continent. This global manufacturing processing increases the chances of fraud. The general secretary of Interpol emphasized that the medicine fraud situation has never been so dynamic since vaccines have become “liquid gold”.
Moreover, the article mentions that WHO has witnessed an increased effort of criminal networks in targeting COVID-19 related medicines and vaccines as the economic benefits greatly outweigh the prosecution chances or the small penalties. GS1 standards, a globally standardized system for traceability, are presented as a possible solution. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) will impose GS1 compliance by the end of 2021 but unfortunately, this will not cover locally manufactured medicines.
While some direct dangers of falsified medicines are evident, there are many others that are less spoken of such as the risk of antibiotic resistance or the risk of feeding medicine-resistant organisms promoted by falsified antibiotics. When it comes to falsified vaccines, which could consist of plain saltwater for example, the danger comes also from the risky behaviors people can engage in, because of the false security feeling and the escalation of sabotage accusations between countries, says Dr. Judy Stone.
There is a growing online trend of fake websites that mimic real pharmaceutical websites where COVID-19 vaccines are sold up to $1000 and vaccine certificates for $200. Given fake vaccine cards and passports are becoming a very profitable business, authorities have urge citizens not to share photos of them on social media. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to share vaccine rollout in an equitable way around the globe so poorer countries are protected against the proliferation of falsified medicines. The author concluded the article with a simple but powerful reminder, that falsified medicines affect all of us and will keep us away from the desired herd immunity for much longer.
Thank you to Dr. Judy Stone for writing about this issue of substandard and falsified medicines in such a complete way.
Dr. Judy Stone is a infectious diseases physician and medical writer. She often writes for Scientific American, and is a Senior Contributor for Forbes. In her recent book “Resilience: One Family’s Story of Hope and Triumph over Evil “ Dr. Stone takes us through the story of her family surviving the Holocaust, and how this shaped her career. The book has received great reviews including from The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Find out more here.