5,000 websites peddling fake medicines shut
Laurent Venetz, Jennie Martel and Hugo Bonar during a panel discussion on counterfeit products at the Unity for Security conference in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi - A panel of top experts in counterfeit products discussed how the trade in fake goods represents a major challenge for the international law enforcement community.
Consumers' loss of trust in the medical industry is triggering a turn to counterfeit drugs, which as a result, causes severe consequences, including cancer, heart-attacks, coma and even death, said a panel of experts.
On the final day of the Unity for Security conference held in Abu Dhabi, a panel of top experts in counterfeit products discussed how the trade in fake goods represents a major challenge for the international law enforcement community and a huge risk to global public health.
"When you buy a counterfeit product, you have no expectation of the risk - rather than doing you harm, you believe it is actually good for you," said Hugo Bonar, enforcement manager, Health Products Regulatory Authority of Ireland.
Trafficking of illicit products encompasses practices that include falsification, counterfeiting, piracy, smuggling, tax evasion and adulteration of goods, range from medicines to car spareparts and even toys.
Bonar stressed that the public's loss of trust in the medical industry is leading them to turn to counterfeit drugs, which as a result, causes severe repercussions.
"People lost confidence in the public health system," he added.
Bonar noted illicit pharmaceutical products and fake drugs may also contain wrong amounts of active ingredients and dangerous substances, and as a result, causing cancer, heart attacks or coma to consumers.
He said the 2.4-dinitrophenol (DNP) banned fat-burning diet pill, which is a chemical that was used in explosives during WWI, has caused severe side effects on the users, most often, bodybuilders.
Although the 'quick-fix' slimming pill is banned, it is still being sold on websites that also sell legitimate and legal slimming products, thus confusing consumers about its potential harm.
Jennie Martel, chief of brand protection at Colgate Palmolive Company, highlighted that the rapid evolution in technology is certainly allowing for a rise in freedom of movement of illicit products, and although the criminal enterprises are grey and complex, the law enforcements can prevent the trafficking crime, which often has no boundaries.
The panel stressed that not only does trafficking of illicit goods harm consumers' health, but also harms economies around the world and causing governments to lose tax revenue, due to the products manufactured and sold in the black market.
Bonar noted that it is not just medicine that is being traded illegally, but also medical devices, human tissues as well as organs.
As part of the seven crime-tackling programmes the UAE, Interpol and Interpol Foundation for a Safer World have developed, Interpol built initiatives that are already combating the trafficking of illicit and fake products.
Interpol are currently connecting with global stakeholders, including police forces, private sectors, customs agencies, regulatory bodies, supply chain experts, food and drug administrations, payment card industry, banking industry and Internet service providers.
Bonar noted the International IP Crime Investigators College (IIPIC), an online training facility developed by the Interpol, is one of the leaders in training for law enforcement, private sector investigators and regulatory authorities around the world.
"5,000 websites were shut down last year, but this does not mean it will stop illicit medicines from being purchased."
The cooperation will not only disrupt distribution, but will also arrest criminals who distribute illicit products, particularly, drugs.
Martel said the UAE's firm stance against illicit goods and trafficking has also saved lives of people across the country. "The UAE authorities seized hundreds of thousands of products, which were dangerous items, and stopped them from reaching consumers."