The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have disrupted markets all across the world, including the markets for pharmaceuticals. This disruption has allowed counterfeit drug manufacturers to take advantage of gaps in markets.
WHO (World Health Organization) officials are warning that there is a global pandemic of counterfeit drugs that is only going to get worse unless governments act quickly.
Surge in Demand for Possible Treatments
As the death toll from the coronavirus climbs, people are becoming desperate for anything that promises to prevent infection, treat symptoms, or cure the disease. Counterfeit drug manufacturers are exploiting this demand for possible treatments.
In some instances, they are creating fake products that claim to prevent or cure the coronavirus. While some of these fake medicines only hurt people by taking their money and giving them a false sense of protection, some concoctions are potentially lethal if taken by people with certain underlying conditions.
Counterfeit Versions of Antimalarial Medications
Another counterfeit hotspot is the antimalarial market. There has always been a robust black market for counterfeit antimalarials, but the panic over the coronavirus pandemic has made things worse.
Even though WHO has warned that there is currently no evidence that antimalarial drugs like chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine have any effect on the coronavirus, demand for these drugs has spiked all over the world.
This has led to a shortage of these drugs. This shortage is being met by counterfeiters, who often ship drugs with fake brand names and missing ingredients or added ingredients.
Taking these counterfeit drugs can have even more serious side effects than taking the authentic versions.
Part of the issue is that people who need chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat malaria are more likely to be exposed to the counterfeits.
Supply Chain Interruptions and Medicine Shortages
The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the normal supply chains that pharmaceutical companies use for a variety of medications.
India and China are the primary sources for a variety of pharmaceutical ingredients, drugs, and medical supplies. Because of the pandemic, these countries remain largely shutdown for exports of these critical materials.
The pharmaceutical supply chain is relatively fragile, and it has been difficult for manufactures to find alternative supplies of critical ingredients and supplies.
Counterfeit Drugs to Take Advantage of Supply Chain Issues
Supply chain issues combined with individuals and companies stockpiling drugs have led to shortages of a variety of medications not directly related to the coronavirus.
Opportunist criminals have also taken advantage of this gap and are producing counterfeit versions of medications on an unprecedented scale.
As the price of many prescription medicines climbs, counterfeiters work to undercut the market with cheap versions of in-demand drugs.
Of course, these cheap versions are often manufactured in violation of national and international laws and patents. As with other counterfeit drugs, these fake medicines often lack important ingredients, are not mixed properly, and contain additional ingredients that can be harmful.
The current counterfeit drug pandemic is not just economically damaging to the pharmaceutical industry; it’s a public health crisis.
Until more countries take stronger measures to restore supply chains, control prices and stockpiling, and arrest counterfeiters, these dangerous drugs will continue to find the gaps in the system.
They will end up in the bodies of some of the most vulnerable people in the world.