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Europe

EU steps up the fight against counterfeit drugmakers

The European Parliament has passed a directive aimed at curbing the sale and distribution of counterfeit drugs. Barcodes and holograms are being discussed as ways to ensure products are genuine.

Pills

Sales of counterfeit drugs are on the rise worldwide

The European Union is stepping up its fight against makers of counterfeit drugs to better protect consumers against potentially harmful or simply ineffective drugs.

"The number of fake drugs has increased dramatically over the last few years, that's why we had to act" German Conservative MEP Peter Liese said.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament passed a directive aimed at improving labeling so that consumers are able to easily recognize a genuine product. Barcodes, serial numbers and holograms are being discussed as ways to ensure a drug cannot be tampered with and that it can be traced back to suppliers and drug makers.

New safety logo

hand holding prescription and box of medication

The EU directive is aimed at prescription-only drugs

More than half of medicines purchased over the websites of illegal pharmacies are fake, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), prompting Brussels to introduce plans for a logo for internet pharmacies, which will help patients identify pharmacies that comply with EU rules.

In Europe, only Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, and the UK currently allow patients to buy their medication over the internet.

A new study commissioned by US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer estimates that one in five Europeans admits to buying prescription drugs on the internet without appropriate medical care, fueling a 10.5 billion-euro ($14.3 billion) industry.

The new directive comes in response to a steep increase in the sale of counterfeit medicines in the EU and elsewhere. EU statistics show that the number of counterfeit drugs seized by authorities has risen fourfold since 2005.

"What's particularly worrying is that it's no longer just so-called lifestyle drugs like Viagra that are being targeted, but also life-saving medication, like anti-cancer drugs," according to Liese.

Counterfeit drugs are often too weak to be effective, but they can also be life-threatening due to inappropriate doses of the active ingredients or harmful additives.

Author: Nicole Goebel (dpa, dapd, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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