A new trend among counterfeiters is to target high-value drugs like HIV antivirals in both the developing and developed world. "HIV and cancer drugs are as easy to counterfeit as other drugs, but they require distribution to physicians and clinics," says Marvin Shepherd, president at the Partnership for Safe Medicines, in a phone interview. "HIV drugs are highly diverted, oral or injectable."
In Germany, officials are currently investigating dozens of pharmacies for illegal and counterfeit medicine distribution. Prosecutors have brought charges against one pharmacist and are investigating others, says SecuringPharma. The counterfeits include not only antibiotics and cancer treatments, but also painkillers, lifestyle medicines and bodybuilding products. The pharmacists are accused of mixing illegally acquired medicines with legitimate, genuine product.
And last year, German officials found counterfeits of the AIDS drugs Combivir and Viramune, from GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim, in the legal supply chain. The fakes were actually the real McCoy, though they came in counterfeit packaging with fake labeling.
Of all drug sorts, counterfeit anti-malarials are the most insidious. The counterfeits can lead to death, either by lack of protection from the disease or through toxicity of the knock-offs. The WHO estimates some 200,000 deaths every year from counterfeit or substandard malaria medication. It's a developing world problem, primarily Africa and South East Asia.