40% of EU counterfeit drug seizures of Swiss origin
that almost 40 per cent of fake medicines seized by the EU
originated in Switzerland.
In a year where the volume of counterfeit pharmaceuticals seized rose by 51 per cent China was cited as the country of origin for just 4 per cent of fake medicines, with Russia not even appearing on the list. The startling statistic on the level of Swiss counterfeiting has been attributed to five shipments totalling 1.6m morphine-based painkiller pills which were seized by German customs between March and May 2007. It is unclear whether the pills were manufactured within Switzerland. Nonetheless, EU Customs Commissioner Lászlo Kovács described himself as "shocked" after seeing the Swiss statistics. He added: "The Swiss name carries a certain guarantee for consumers. It is therefore even more dangerous for the counterfeit products to come from Switzerland than from China." Switzerland did not feature as a country of origin in the 2006 EU counterfeiting report which suggests its prominence in 2007 may be a blip. This is not the case for India and the United Arab Emirates which were joint first in 2006 and second and third respectively in 2007. Overall the total number of EU seizures of counterfeit pharmaceuticals rose to 2,045, which resulted in the seizure of 4,081,056 pharmaceutical "articles". Although the rise in the number of seizures of counterfeited goods cannot be directly correlated with an increase in the level of piracy the EU report acknowledges it is facing a growing problem. The report states: "Given the fact that seizures in most product sectors continues to increase, yet counterfeit and pirated goods continue to be freely available within the internal market, one can draw the conclusion that the problem of counterfeiting and piracy is in fact still growing." It appears that although the EU is becoming more vigilant in restricting the flow of counterfeit pharmaceuticals those who are profiteering from it are also raising their game. This is unsurprising given the scale of the counterfeit drug market, which the World Health Organisation believes will be worth $75bn globally by the end of the decade. The EU seems committed to tackling this trade which Kovács described as posing "a dangerous threat to our health, safety and our economy". In March it laid out the measures it feels are necessary to tackle counterfeiting, which included batch pedigrees, obligatory product seals and mass serialisation. Despite this few would bet against 2008's figures breaking new records as the counterfeiters prove to be an increasingly troublesome thorn in the side of beleaguered big pharma.