Call for counterfeit drug treaty gets group banned from WHO event

The World Health Organization (WHO) is banning a group of doctors and academics who are calling for a global treaty on counterfeit drugs from attending an international meeting on the problem, and India may have been the country that nixed them from speaking at the meeting in Argentina.

According to Reuters, the group published a paper Wednesday in the British Medical Journal calling for a treaty like those used for money laundering and human trafficking that they say can slow the appearance of counterfeit drugs and save lives. They contend that without a treaty there is no official means for regulators and law enforcement to work across borders, providing havens in which counterfeiters can operate.

Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa in Canada, the lead author of the article, told Reuters that the WHO notified him Monday that he and his colleagues were not welcome after India objected. He called it a "scandal." WHO wouldn't tell Reuters who was behind the objection and the service couldn't reach officials in India.

India's fight with the West over counterfeits is complicated by its own needs. India and China often are cited as the source and recipient of counterfeit drugs. But some there believe that moves proponents say are aimed at stopping counterfeits are really disguised Big Pharma efforts to undermine India's position on generic drugs. India has invalidated a number of patents from drugmakers' high-priced products, like Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer drug Gleevec and its hepatitis C med Pegasys in an effort to get cheaper versions to a population that cannot afford them. The West counters that India needs to help provide healthcare to its population and not rob the West of intellectual property.

But a problem that was once believed to be relegated to poor countries is now creating fear in the West. Concern ratcheted up here this year when counterfeits of Roche's cancer drug Avastin made it to cancer treatment centers throughout the U.S. before regulators discovered the fakes.

- read the Reuters story
- here's the British Medical Journal article

Special Report: Top counterfeit drug events in 2012