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Report on Counterfeit Medicines and Organized Crime

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are among the counterfeit products with the greatest potential of harm for consumers’ health. However, for such a dangerous threat, the topic has received a negligible amount of attention from the media and the general public.

Counterfeit medicines have become a highly profitable criminal industry run by transnational criminal organizations. The issue has affected international communities in terms of growth, industrial and commercial turnover, social development, improvement of people’s living conditions, and human security.

The alarming presence of such a phenomenon and the importance of spreading information have prompted UNICRI to complete a report on Counterfeit Medicines and Organized Crime. The findings were thoroughly examined and elaborated with a critical approach. UNICRI made this work comprehensive and accessible for the general public.

Various dimensions of the issue were taken into consideration:

  • The production and distribution routes of counterfeit medicines;
  • the peculiarities of the national, regional and international markets;
  • the chain of perpetrators implicated in this crime and the involvement of organized criminals;
  • The extent and the geographical magnitude of the phenomenon, with a distinction between developed countries and countries with developing economies.

The role of the internet as a virtual, unregulated market was also outlined, with a special focus on spam as a tool for the worldwide promotion of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. In particular, this report also contains a pilot study on spam and online medicines. The latter was realized with the support of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and in collaboration with the IT Advisory Security Company Mediaservice. In accomplishing the overall realization of this report, the contribution of experts and professionals operating in the Italian Pharmaceutical Agency (AIFA) and the Italian Ministry of Economic Development were of considerable importance.