Counterfeits questioner needs to dig deeper

Carl Bialik is absolutely correct about the poor documentation of the drug-counterfeiting problem that he described recently in the Wall Street Journal.

We discovered in our Top Counterfeit Drugs Report that the one statistic commonly used--counterfeits as a percentage of all drug sales--is now more than 10 years old and disavowed by the World Health Organization, the commonly cited source. "There is no way to know if this is a growing problem without two distinct, reliable estimates," he says correctly.

But he's incorrect when he asserts, "There isn't even one, though."

We opted in our report to not use the bandied percentage figure--which will not be stated here to help stop its spread--choosing instead a metric that is reliably tracked (i.e., the number of incidents, with 2,003 last year, as counted by the Pharmaceutical Security Institute). Bialik could have a field day with this stat, which has climbed steadily since PSI began counting with the 196 incidents of 2002.

If Bialik were tracking these figures--rather than researching the origins of figures that lack not just credibility, but also meaning--his doubts about the magnitude of the counterfeiting problem would be put to rest. He'd know the problem is growing. And he'd realize there's "a huge variation between geographic regions in terms of incidence of counterfeit medicines," as the WHO's International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) states.

He then might also become skeptical of Patrick Durisch of the Berne Declaration, a nonprofit advocate for corporate responsibility, whom he quotes in his Journal column: "We are quite skeptical--is it really growing?"

- here's Bialik's column
- see the WHO IMPACT Internet site