Fakes report: Forget handbags, focus on drugs

A study funded by the European Union finds that, with the notable exception of drugs, counterfeiting is an overblown concern. In fact, it may be good for the brands being copied. However, brand-holders and law enforcement are rejecting the report's conclusions.

The quality of many of the fake goods has "improved greatly," the report says. That's as true for drugs as for any other brand-name product, consumer or otherwise. "We should be focusing on the trade in counterfeit drugs, dodgy aircraft parts and other stuff that really causes public harm," says study co-author David Wall, a University of Durham professor, in a U.K. press report.

The British Journal of Criminology study, co-written by Wall and a U.K. Home Office adviser, calculates that the cost to industry might be a fraction of commonly accepted estimates and says it should be up to the industry--and not police--to halt the trade. That thought appears to have occurred some time ago to Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, which is one of the most copied drugs. The drug giant employs its own counterfeits investigative staff to work with government officials. It has found "a massive black market economy generated by counterfeit medicines," and estimates that as much as 90 percent of medicines bought online are fake or contain too little or none of the active ingredient.

- see the article about the EU report