Counterfeiting of medicines is a serious and growing problem around the world.
Counterfeit prescription medicines often do not treat disease and sometimes harm patients. Counterfeiting of both branded and generic products happens worldwide, with developing countries and those buying medicines from unlicensed online pharmacies at highest risk.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A CONCERN
If you have a concern, you should contact your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. If you are in the US, you can also use the AstraZeneca customer care line.
AstraZeneca urges patients and healthcare professionals to be alert to the possibility of counterfeiting. Patients can protect themselves from the risks associated with counterfeit drugs by obtaining all prescription and over-the-counter medications from regulated licensed pharmacies. They should be vigilant when examining their medications, paying attention to altered or unsealed packaging or changes in the product packaging.
Patients should be especially vigilant with products obtained on the internet because their origin and quality cannot be guaranteed.
The scale of counterfeiting activity around the world is difficult to quantify accurately, but estimates indicate that it is clearly a serious and growing problem. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 1% and 30% (rising to 50% for Internet pharmacies that conceal their identity) of medicines sold worldwide are counterfeit. The Centre for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI) estimates that the global trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals was worth approximately $75 billion in 2010 - a 92% increase over 2005.
Preventing counterfeiting and illegal trade in our medicines is an important part of our commitment to patient safety. It also helps us to avoid loss of revenue, protect our reputation and maintain public confidence in healthcare systems.
Our strategy is focused on three key areas:
- Building strong, collaborative partnerships to strengthen enforcement and raise awareness. We work with other pharmaceutical companies, our supply chain partners, governments, and law enforcement agencies to raise awareness of the issue and implement effective solutions.
- Securing our products through pack security features to aid verification and deter copying, and improving the security of the end-to-end supply chain.
- Working in enforcement to combat illegal activity through professional investigation of reported suspicions
Our Code of Conduct requires all our employees to report suspicions of possible illegal trade of medicines that come to their attention. The Code is supported by a Counterfeiting Zero Tolerance Standard for Supply Chain Partners that:
- Requires our partners (including suppliers and agents such as wholesalers or distributors, hospitals and retail pharmacies) to take the necessary steps to ensure the authenticity of the product through the end to end supply chain.
- Identifies the actions to be taken by AstraZeneca when a supply chain partner has been involved in counterfeiting or illegal trade, either knowingly or through lack of establishment of adequate controls. In the event that we find a supply chain agent or intermediary (ie suppliers, wholesalers, distributors) is suspected of involvement in counterfeiting or illegal trade, if specified criteria are satisfied, the relationship with the partner will be terminated.
There are concerns that pharmaceutical companies may use anti-counterfeiting measures as a means of imposing restrictions on the manufacture, sale or distribution of legitimate generic medicines. We recognise generics as legitimate and safe products for patients. However counterfeiting of medicines is an illegal activity and we will make every effort to stop this activity. Unfortunately penalties for the counterfeiting of medicines are often not strong enough deterrents, so the most effective legal challenge available to pharmaceutical companies may be trademark infringement.
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