WHO members discuss fake and substandard drugs

Globe with capsulesWorld Health Organization (WHO) members are meeting again this week to discuss ongoing efforts to tackle the trade in counterfeit and substandard medicines.
The meeting - which takes place today and tomorrow - is the first for a new 'open-ended working group' set up to guide the develop the mechanism to tackle what are known in WHO circles as substandard/spurious/falsely-labelled/falsified/counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products.

The creation of the new working group was one of the recommendations from the first meeting of member states with an interest in SSFFCs in Buenos Aires November 2012, which laid out next steps but was held back by disagreements over the chairmanship of the group.

Last year, the WHO agreed to set up the intergovernmental working group to look into its handling of SSFFCs amid claims that counterfeits and legitimate generics were being conflated by those pursuing an IP rights agenda, and adopted a resolution to set up a member state-led mechanism to tackle the trade.

In a report on the first Buenos Aires meeting filed ahead of this week's meeting, the WHO recognises the contribution of a "non-paper" from Brazil  entitled Practices of health authorities and WHO in the process of ensuring the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products.

Among the suggestions made by Brazil are a series of principle "to characterise the necessary measures to guarantee the safety, effectiveness and quality of medicines offered to the population," including a shift in emphasis from products to activities and behaviours.

Brazil also wants the focus to be on the regulatory status of medical products, not on trademarks or patents, while the definition of SSFFCs should be a matter for national health authorities "since such products may be identified using distinct terminologies determined by domestic legislation and linguistic particularities."

The deliberations of this week's meeting will be covered by at a later date.

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