Global Crackdown Nets Millions in Fake Drugs

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By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) – In a recent global sting operation conducted by INTERPOL, 156 arrests were made and more than $81 million dollars in counterfeit drugs were seized across 115 countries, including $24.8 million in the UK alone, according to a report in the Daily Mail. The operation, which in the UK seized 6.2 million doses of fake drugs, also focused on closing websites selling fake and unlicensed drugs through the mail. In the week leading up to June 18, 2015, drug inspectors seized $25.1 million worth of fake or unlicensed medicines.

These are big numbers and they add up to a stark conclusion: unlicensed drugs might be the most profitable criminal activity going. According to the Daily Mail, the confiscated drugs included thousands or possible killer slimming pills, drugs to aid concentration, drugs fighting anemia and erectile-dysfunction medicine. But perhaps the scariest confiscations of all were the more than 15,000 units of fake cancer drugs seized across the UK. The British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says that gangs are increasingly shifting their focus from cocaine and heroin to the even-more-lucrative practice of faking prescription and other medicines, reselling to an unsuspecting populace.

MHRA Head of Enforcement Alastair Jeffrey told the Daily Mail that criminals discovered they could make huge profits with comparatively minimal risks. Counterfeit medicines are the most profitable source across the whole criminal spectrum, he said.  He added that his agency was beginning to see more established criminal groups entering this space, since risk is low and the profits are very high. Jeffrey added that sentencing for counterfeit medicine—typically two years—is too lenient compared to that for street drugs. It’s not a police priority, with sentencing not reflecting the severity of the crime and failing to act as a deterrent, he maintained.

Law enforcement shuttered 1,380 websites in Britain, says the Daily Mail, but MHRA Head of Intelligence Mark Jackson thinks criminals are turning to social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to distribute their drugs. He said searching for Kamagra—the unauthorized Indian generic version of Viagra—on Twitter returned tweets linking to websites selling the drug, with the same going for fake oncology medicine.

“The criminals who sell fake drugs don’t care about your well-being,” says Dr. James A. Hayward, president and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences. “For them, it’s a question of profit and loss. They don’t care whether the consumer lives or dies.”

The company’s SigNature® DNA markers—derived from plant DNA—are designed to protect against counterfeit products in the supply chain, including counterfeit medications. Applied DNA Sciences specializes in using unique DNA marking on product labels to enable easy scanning at all points of manufacture and distribution. Using a proprietary process, Applied DNA ensures that each product label is composed of uncopyable botanical DNA sequences beyond the capabilities of counterfeiters.

“Sticking with reputable retailers is the best way for consumers to ensure the drugs they purchase aren’t counterfeit,” Hayward adds.

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