While counterfeiters in Europe might expect to receive a fine or jail term for the offence, India is pressing for the maximum sentence in these cases to be the death penalty, according to a BBC report.
The stringency of the measures reflects the growing problem of counterfeiting in India. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the country's success stories, with sales running at around 200 billion rupees. However, a lack of close regulatory oversight has allowed the fakers to prosper at a time when Indian companies are just starting to build a share in world markets, and needs the reputation of Indian-produced medicines to be solid.
Parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj revealed the plans after a cabinet meeting last week. It should be noted that while a number of offences in India carry the death penalty, it is rarely carried out. Drug counterfeiting already carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment in India.
India's move comes in the wake of a World Health Organisation campaign against fake drugs last month. The agency estimated that up to 25 per cent of medicines consumed in developing countries are fake or sub-standard, putting patients at risk of side effects or the consequences of their condition remaining untreated.
The minister estimates that fake drugs rob the legitimate Indian pharmaceutical industry of around $1 billion a year.
The WHO notes that some regions of the globe have a particularly bad counterfeiting problem. For example, fake drugs are frequently detected in countries such Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam and the problem seems to be increasing. Products most commonly counterfeited in this region include antibiotics and those used in the treatment of tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS. The use of poor quality or counterfeit medicines has little or no therapeutic effect and in poor settings often leads to death.