While China’s and India’s lead-based painted toys and sweatshops have created quite a stir among Americans of late, something potentially worse is in the making. For example, how will the U.S. respond when thousands of American men die after ingesting a counterfeit and poisonous erectile dysfunction (ED) drug they purchased from China via the Internet?
In an Oct. 31 press release, the America’s Watchdog (AW) consumer advocacy group says “it’s not a question of if there will be a mass casualty event as a result of counterfeit drugs coming from China or India, or counterfeit tobacco products coming from China; it’s a question of when or how soon.” In addition to counterfeit pharmaceuticals, counterfeit cigarettes have also surfaced. AW says that cigarettes from China have been known to contain pieces of plastic and banned pesticides, including DDT, any one of which could be deadly.
As a result of a year-long investigation into counterfeit drugs and tobacco, AW established Global Piracy & Counterfeiting Consultants (GPCC) to take on sellers of online counterfeit drugs and tobacco products. Their website states that counterfeit drugs and tobacco are “a global epidemic” on a scale too large for any one government or company to solve. It quotes the White House as saying that “growing global piracy and counterfeiting threatens the competitiveness of innovative industries, the livelihoods of creative artists and workers, and the health and safety of consumers in the European Union, the United States and beyond.”
So, how big is the business of counterfeiting drugs and tobacco? How widespread is it? Why are China and India the targets of AW and CPCC?
AW says that counterfeiting drugs is a 75 billion dollar a year global business. In other words, 75 billion dollars is lost to the shareholders of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. One would think large companies would care about that, even if they don’t care about the possible health risks to consumers.
The FDA says that the actual scope of drug counterfeiting in the U.S. is unknown. However, outside of the U.S., drug counterfeiting is known to be widespread, affecting both developing and developed countries. In fact, in virtually all countries, counterfeit drug operations have been uncovered in recent years. Further, the FDA reports, more than half of the drug supply in some countries is counterfeit. For example, recent reports have indicated that more than 50 percent of anti-malaria drugs in Africa are counterfeit. AW says that in Africa, at least 40 to 50 percent of the entire drug market is counterfeit.
GPCC’s president puts it like this: “Perhaps no one cares about people dying from counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Africa, but this will change when individuals start dying in large numbers in Los Angeles, New York, London or Tokyo. Great companies like Microsoft go after counterfeiters right down to the street corner vendors. In the meantime how many people die from counterfeit drugs, and what is being done about it?” AW answers: “Who knows” and “Not much.”
Why China and India? AW says there’s “a wild west atmosphere in China and India, where basically anything goes.” Along with that, both countries strive to have the world’s largest economy, both have growing military capabilities and both governments seem to ignore illegal activities when they benefit the economy. “Unlike the Japanese, who pride themselves on the quality of their products, the Chinese and Indian business cultures seem to be, make a buck today, because who cares about tomorrow,” says AW.
AW warns that in many cases, there is more money in counterfeit drugs and tobacco than there is in cocaine or heroin. That being the case, America needs to “start thinking of a future where smugglers are not running cocaine across the U.S. border with Mexico; they are running ED pills or untaxed counterfeit cigarettes instead.” AW says it receives 20 to 50 phone calls a day from call centers in India or Central America selling what they assume are counterfeit drugs. Further, AW believes Russian or Chinese organized crime run most of the larger global counterfeiting operations.
In summation, CPCC is warning consumers everywhere to avoid doing business of any kind with online pharmacies or cigarette retailers unless they can provide credentials. “Aside from potential lethal counterfeit drugs or cigarettes, consumers expose them selves to possible identity theft or paying for something they never get,” says the group.
Press release, Americas Watchdog Warns About Drug & Tobacco Counterfeiters in China & India and the Dire Need to Stop Them before it’s Too Late; http://www.prweb.com/releases/2007/10/prweb565113.htm
Global Piracy & Counterfeiting Consultants; http://gp-cc.com/