Understanding and fighting the medicine counterfeit market

J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2014 Jan:87:167-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jpba.2013.01.009. Epub 2013 Jan 11.


Medicine counterfeiting is a serious worldwide issue, involving networks of manufacture and distribution that are an integral part of industrialized organized crime. Despite the potentially devastating health repercussions involved, legal sanctions are often inappropriate or simply not applied. The difficulty in agreeing on a definition of counterfeiting, the huge profits made by the counterfeiters and the complexity of the market are the other main reasons for the extent of the phenomenon. Above all, international cooperation is needed to thwart the spread of counterfeiting. Moreover effort is urgently required on the legal, enforcement and scientific levels. Pharmaceutical companies and agencies have developed measures to protect the medicines and allow fast and reliable analysis of the suspect products. Several means, essentially based on chromatography and spectroscopy, are now at the disposal of the analysts to enable the distinction between genuine and counterfeit products. However the determination of the components and the use of analytical data for forensic purposes still constitute a challenge. The aim of this review article is therefore to point out the intricacy of medicine counterfeiting so that a better understanding can provide solutions to fight more efficiently against it.

Keywords: Analysis; Forensic intelligence; Medicine counterfeiting; Organized crime; Product protection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography / methods
  • Counterfeit Drugs / analysis
  • Counterfeit Drugs / supply & distribution*
  • Drug Industry / methods
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Fraud / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / analysis
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods
  • Time Factors


  • Counterfeit Drugs
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations