Private Solutions to Stop Fake Drugs

Yesterday, in a stunning announcement, Google and Microsoft decided to agree on something. What might that be, you ask? Stopping the online sale of counterfeit drugs.

In a White House forum on intellectual property, IP Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, announced the creation of an industry-led effort to target rogue sites that specialize in peddling counterfeit pharmaceuticals and stop them from doing business. Besides Microsoft and Google, companies also included in the coalition are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Yahoo, GoDaddy, Neustar, PayPal, and eNom.

We have often written on this site about the detrimental effects of counterfeiting to the economy, yet often overshadowed is the significant health and safety threat. Tainted pharmaceuticals, substandard airplane parts, and contaminated toothpaste continue to cause serious harm to lives around the world. The trade in counterfeit medicines has skyrocketed in recent years. According to Markmonitor, a firm that works with companies on brand protection, sales of counterfeit goods via the internet will reach $135 billion this year. The WHO estimates that counterfeit drugs constitute up to 25% of the total medicine supply in less developed countries. These medicines could either contain no active ingredients, very little active ingredients that will do nothing to fight the disease and may even make it more resistant to treatment, or in the worst case scenario the counterfeit could contain toxic materials. The International Policy Network estimates that around 700,000 deaths per year from only malaria and tuberculosis are attributable to fake drugs.

It is great to see this broad coalition of businesses coming together to offer private solutions to stop the spread of counterfeits and hopefully we will see more of this kind of collaborative effort in the future to combat intellectual property theft.