US agencies partner with pharma body on falsified drugs

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in the US between have joined forces with the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) to combat the illicit trade in medicinal products.

The organisations – which signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at a meeting at the IPR Centre's headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia earlier this week – said the ultimate aim of the collaboration is to protect patients from the health and safety threats posed by counterfeit drugs.

The three will develop "comprehensive strategies to investigate the manufacture, importation, transportation, sale, and distribution of counterfeit or unapproved medications and medical devices, as well as strengthen the supply chain across public and private sectors," according to a statement.

"According to the World Health Organization, over 1 million deaths occur annually from counterfeit medicine and drugs," said Jim Mancuso, director of the IPR Centre, who signed the MoU alongside PSI president and CEO Todd Ratcliffe (pictured above).

"Networking, connecting resources and sharing information enhances our ability to prevent the sale and importation of these dangerous pharmaceuticals around the world and protect consumers from the harm illegal online pharmacies pose."

As consumers look for more convenient and affordable methods of acquiring medicines, many have turned to the internet. However, doing so comes with the risk of purchasing counterfeit pharmaceuticals, that range from drugs with no active ingredients to those with dangerous impurities.

"Consuming counterfeit or illegally diverted medicines poses a threat to public health and can have serious consequences for individuals and communities globally," said Ratcliffe.

"PSI's partnership with the IPR Center reinforces our commitment to continue to use all of our resources, while leveraging our strong relationship with our industry and governmental partners to help stop the illegal flow of counterfeit and unapproved medical products globally," he added.

According to PSI figures, pharmaceutical crime incidents have escalated 20 per cent from 4,344 in calendar year 2020 to 5,987 in 2021, which it says can be attributed to "the easing of pandemic restrictions, and criminal organizations taking advantage of new opportunities."

There were 555 counterfeiting incidents that involved either customs seizures or police/health inspector raids, and seizures increased by 101 per cent over the prior year.

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