A scamdemic: rise in pharma fraud poses global health risks

Pharmaceutical fraud is on the rise, according to BrandShield Systems plc, a leading provider of cybersecurity solutions for brand oriented digital risk protection. The AIM-listed cybersecurity firm, together with the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), recently announced its Pharma Fraud report following a disruption programme carried out from January last year.

The process saw BrandShield monitor, detect, and remove online threats across social media platforms, websites, and marketplaces. The results in the report indicate a concerning rise in rogue pharmacies and illegitimate drug listings, showing the extent to which innocent patients and pharmaceutical firms worldwide are at risk. 

A deeper dive into the report shows just how alarming this trend is. From January 2022-January 2023, BrandShield removed over 7,500 fraudulent pharmaceutical listings containing a variety of medicines relating to cancers, HIV, type 2 diabetes, and more. The report highlights that cybercriminals are constantly seeking to exploit individuals in search of potentially life-saving medication via counterfeit listings. The problem is particularly acute given the current cost-of-living crisis, with inflation globally hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

Reflecting upon the report, BrandShield CEO, Yoav Keren (pictured alongside), said “year after year, cybercriminals continue to target consumers using counterfeit listings of potentially life-saving medications”.

He also went on to state what these findings reveal about the state of public health: “Without adequate enforcement and proactive takedown efforts, fraudsters pose immense risks to public health. We’re incredibly proud of our ongoing partnership with PSI to ensure consumers remain safe from physical and financial harm”.

Geographical breakdown

The BrandShield-PSI research also shed light on which global regions were seeing the sharpest rise in these threats. Geographically, Indonesia, India, and China had the highest number of marketplace fraudulent listings with over 3,000 removals between them.

Indonesia, in particular, witnessed the highest number of fraudulent marketplace listings; BrandShield’s technology removed over 2,200 fake listings in the Southeast Asian country. Following these takedowns and related findings thanks to BrandShield, PSI has said that they are increasing their efforts to combat suspicious listings in the region, as they look to work with various stakeholders and regulators to build a robust intel-sharing platform.

Keren presented the results of BrandShield's Annual Pharma Fraud report at PSI's session during the International Trademark Association's 2023 conference in Singapore

Pharma fraud on social media

Social media has shown itself to be a key avenue through which fraudsters can target innocent patients. BrandShield found and removed over 3,000 listings during the 12-month programme period, with an impressive takedown rate of over 95 per cent on Youtube.

Whilst results varied on takedowns between social media platforms, BrandShield reported that it is getting to the heart of the issue as its takedown rate rose from 63 per cent to 81 per cent when compared to last year’s Pharma Fraud report.

Looking ahead

Whilst these findings are alarming, it does indicate that there is a fightback on the way.

Of course, there is still work to do, but the BrandShield-PSI report shows that we’re making progress in combatting pharmaceutical fraud.

Yoav Keren has 24 years of experience in financial management, marketing and business development. He is currently a member of the anti-counterfeiting committee at INTA and was formerly a Council Member at ICANN. Yoav was Senior Advisor to a minister in the Israeli government and was the head of the Technology branch of the Israeli military’s Information Security Department. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg & Recanati business school (Northwestern University & Tel-Aviv University), and a B.A. in Economics and Physics from the Tel-Aviv University.

Related articles:

     Want our news sent directly to your inbox?

Yes please 2


Home  |  About us  |  Contact us  |  Advertise  |  Links  |  Partners  |  Privacy Policy  |   |  RSS feed   |  back to top