The word ‘counterfeit’ may be defined as follows:
1. To make a copy of, usually with the intent to defraud
2. To carry on a deception; dissemble
4. To make fraudulent copies of something valuable
5. A fraudulent imitation.
What does Indian Drugs and Cosmetics Act say?
May be for this reason the Drugs and cosmetics Act of India has specified that manufacturing or selling of the following types of drugs are punishable offence:
Section 17: Misbranded drugs
Section 17-A: Adulterated drugs
Section 17-B: Spurious drugs
No one has asked, so far, that as misbranding could involve trademark and design, why should it fall under Drugs and Cosmetics Act?
This was done in the past by the law makers because they believed that any attempt to deliberately and fraudulently pass off any drug as something, which it really is not, could create a serious public health issue, leading to even death.
Be that as it may, the pharmaceutical industry all over the world sincerely believes that counterfeit drugs involve heinous crime against humanity.
Definition of counterfeit drugs should cover the all types of medicines, which are not genuine:
Definition of counterfeit drugs should, therefore, cover the entire gamut of medicines, which are not genuine. Such medicines could be a fraudulent version of patented, generic or even traditional medicines and have nothing to do with patents or patent infringements.
At the same time it sounds very reasonable that a medicine that is authorized for marketing by the regulatory authority of one country but not by another country, should not be regarded as counterfeit on this particular ground in the other country, if it is not made available fraudulently.
The recent survey on ‘spurious’ and ‘sub-standard’ drugs by the Government of India:
To assess the magnitude of the menace of counterfeit drugs, Financial Express dated November 12, 2009 reported that much hyped “world’s largest study on counterfeit drugs” conducted by the Ministry of Health of the Government of India with the help of the Drug Controller General of India’s office, has come to the following two key conclusions:
1. Only 0.0046% of the drugs in the market were spurious
2. Quantum of sub-standard drugs in India is just 0.001%
From this report, it appears that India, at this stage, has nothing to worry about this public health hazard!!!
It is indeed quite baffling to understand, why did the government keep ‘misbranded drugs’, as specified in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of India, outside the purview of this study.
Be that as it may, it appears that this survey has raised more questions than what it had attempted to answer. Such questions are expected to be raised not only by the pharmaceutical industry of India, its stakeholders and the civil society at large, but by the global experts, as well.
The problem of counterfeit is more prevalent in countries where regulatory enforcement is weak:
The menace of counterfeit medicines is not restricted to the developing countries like, India. It is seen in the developed countries, as well, but at a much smaller scale. Thus it is generally believed that the issue of counterfeit drugs is more common in those countries, where the regulatory enforcement mechanism is weak.
A study done by IMPACT in 2006 indicates that in countries like, the USA, EU, Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, the problem is less than 1%. On the other hand, in the developing nations like parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa more than 30% of the medicines are counterfeits.
The role of ‘The World health Organization (WHO):
To effectively root out this global menace, the leadership role of the WHO is extremely important. Across the world, patients’ need protection from the growing menace of counterfeit medicines. As a premier organization to address the needs of the global public health issues and especially for the developing world, the WHO needs to play a key and much more proactive role in this matter.
All stakeholders of the pharmaceutical industry must be made aware more effectively, without further delay, of the health threats posed by counterfeit medicines. Authorities and organizations like the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and its regulatory and enforcement agencies, healthcare professionals, patients, all pharmaceutical manufacturers, drug distributors, wholesalers and retailers should collaborate to play a very active and meaningful role in curbing the counterfeit drugs from reaching the innocent patients.
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion