Counterfeiting is a major problem across many industries, and it’s getting worse. According to Travis Johnson, Vice President and Director of Legislative Affairs and Policy for the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, in the 30 years since the association was formed, there has been significant growth both in terms of volume and diversification of fraud items.
“Back in the 1970s and 1980s counterfeiting was largely a concern for apparel companies and luxury goods brands,” he says.“The stereotype of the fake handbag, or $20 Rolex that someone would be selling on the street corner. Since then we’ve seen the expansion of the counterfeiting problem into every possible product sector. We have members from the automotive section, the music industry, video games, movies, computer software and pharmaceuticals. Any product sector you can think of, even things like toothbrushes and shampoo.”
Johnson says that internationally, across all industries, the estimates of the value of counterfeit trade range from over $200 billion a year, to as high as $700 billion a year and the Pharmaceuticals industry is great example. “You wouldn’t normally expect to see someone selling prescription drugs unless they’re a pharmacist, no matter what the outlet, whether it’s a bricks-and-mortar traditional type store or over the internet. If you buy prescription drugs over the internet without a prescription, that’s an obvious tip-off that it’s not a legitimate product. They’re either selling counterfeit product, or stolen or misdirected product. In any case it’s a product that you have no way of knowing whether it was properly stored whether it’s been tampered with or diluted. Many people think they’re getting a good bargain and don’t really consider all of the other facts, unfortunately, sometimes with very bad consequences.”
Johnson feels that the situation for counterfeit pharmaceuticals is at a bit of a crossroads. Laws around the world have improved and the industry has made a major forward in acknowledging and addressing the problem. He does believe, however, that there are areas require additional focus on in the coming years.
“One of the main areas we need to look at is continuing to educate the public. Last year in the US, approximately $30 million worth of counterfeit pharmaceuticals were intercepted by customs out of $300 million in total counterfeit goods that came into the country. Some of the economic estimates for the actual total market for counterfeit goods in the United States is upwards of $200 billion.
“We need to bring the message to consumers about all the reasons why they should not be supporting counterfeit fraud, whether it’s their own health and safety, or the fact that people are losing their jobs, or the impact on the economy. By doing that, we can make a real impact on the spread of counterfeiting.
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