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Business

Pharma group moves to curb sale of counterfeit medicines

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has forged a partnership with the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) to curb the increase in counterfeit medicines in the market.

In a statement yesterday, the IPOPHL said the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the agency with PSI last Nov. 18 seeks to address the challenge in the delivery of safe medicines, as well as promote integrity in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

PSI is a non-profit organization, which seeks to protect public health, share information on counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals, and initiate enforcement actions through the appropriate authorities.

The MOU provides the framework for the cooperation of the parties in terms of capacity building, raising awareness, and exchange of information to curb the sale and consumption of counterfeit medicines and pharmaceutical products.

“This synergy with PSI will help us better protect the value of IP that is meant for our country’s economic gain and, of course, protect our consumers, especially where fake products involved can harm health and cost a life,” IPOPHL director general Rowel Barba said.

PSI president and chief executive officer Todd Ratcliffe emphasized the need for international-scale collaborations, citing challenges in terms of lack of funding of investigative groups on counterfeiting and the low prioritization of such cases, despite the threat posed by fake products to public health and safety.

He warned of the drastic shift being seen in the past six years in counterfeiting, from lifestyle drugs such as weight loss steroids, to life-saving drugs like cancer medications.

The shift comes as more profit is expected to be made from life-saving medicines.

“We encourage our members to call us at the very beginning of a case to see if we know something (and) 50 percent of the time, we have a positive fit in our database,” Ratcliffe said.

He said PSI’s members are required to share information, both to help in law enforcement and protect public health.

Established in 2002, PSI is composed of 37 pharmaceutical manufacturer-members from various countries, and has representative offices in Florida, Singapore, and Stockholm.

Preliminary data from the National Committee on IP Rights showed pharmaceutical and personal care products seized by the government reached P29.04 million from January to July this year, up from P1.46 million in the same period last year.

Last May, $23 million worth of counterfeit and illicit medicines and medical products were seized by  the International Criminal Police Organization, with half accounted for by unauthorized coronavirus disease 2019 testing kits.

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