Counterfeiting poses health risks

Counterfeit medicines and diagnostic products often look identical to authentic versions and are difficult to detect, particularly for patients. Counterfeits can cause serious illness, or even death, if they contain harmful ingredients, as well as depriving patients of proper treatment.

While estimates of the scale of the problem vary widely, trafficking in counterfeit medicinal products, including medical devices and diagnostics, is widespread and affects both developing and developed countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified counterfeiting as a growing, often underestimated danger, citing, in particular, the problems of product toxicity, instability and ineffectiveness.

As the implications for public health and safety are high, Roche takes this issue very seriously.

Counterfeiting is a criminal act that, in addition to infringing intellectual property rights, poses a significant global public health problem. Not only does it endanger the lives and the well-being of patients, it also undermines confidence in healthcare systems and health professionals. It damages public confidence in authentic pharmaceutical and diagnostic products, their manufacturers and distributors, and is therefore a threat to the reputation of legitimate healthcare business.

Furthermore, counterfeiting creates a financial burden on governments not only due to the money wasted on counterfeits and related enforcement measures, but also due to additional costs resulting from counterfeits causing severe damage to patients’ health.

Responsibility for preventing and controlling counterfeiting rests primarily with national governments and international organisations. Roche cooperates at both the national and the international level with regulators, law enforcement and customs officials. We actively contribute to national and international industry and governmental efforts to develop stronger laws and improve enforcement, educate the public and train local officials. The goal is to support local authorities, international organisations and trade associations in their efforts to prevent negative impacts on public health caused by counterfeit medicinal products.

Roche fully supports governmental efforts and is committed to cooperate with the authorities whenever a Roche product is concerned. Roche’s policy ensures an action plan for rapid information, possible detection, coordination, analysis of suspect products, reporting and timely interaction with authorities.

We have implemented technical anti-counterfeiting measures relating to the design, packaging and labelling of our products, along with working with authorities on a system to track and trace products from distribution to dispensary.

Counterfeit medicines are mostly offered for sale by unlicensed sources, e.g. illegal internet pharmacies. As Roche’s medicines are only available on prescription and often require appropriate infrastructure for administration, we strongly recommend buying prescription only medicines exclusively from trusted sources such as doctors or authorised pharmacies.

However, such measures cannot prevent counterfeits completely and consumers may not recognise a counterfeit even with sophisticated anti-counterfeit measures. Hence, Roche is involved in industry and governmental efforts to contain counterfeits on national and international level and will also implement requirements from authorities.