COVID-19: A global pandemic and a global battle against counterfeits

(An Official publication of PharmaSecure)

Over the past few months, uncertainty has gripped our lives, communities, country, and the world. During this time of unimaginable crisis, combatting counterfeit medicine and pharmaceutical products has become more urgent than ever. With widespread COVID-19 fatalities across the globe, there’s an increasing threat of how drug fraudsters are using this moment of fear to their benefit. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), various scams associated with COVID-19 are going around – such as fake COVID-19 test kits, counterfeit face masks, and misinformation.

To combat the sale of black-market medical products amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, actions are being taken against fraudsters. As of March 9, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have warned seven companies about their sales of so-called treatments to cure COVID-19. The seven companies that received warning letters from the FDA and FTC about their fake COVID-19 treatments are Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., Xephyr, LLC doing business as N-Ergetics, GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and The Jim Bakker Show. While in Europe, in late March, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) announced its investigation of fraudsters seeking to profit from the high demand for preventative and curative products as a result of extremely high rates of infection among EU member states.

Fear is an inevitable emotion at times like this when humans are so vulnerable, and the current conditions provide an ideal breeding ground for drug counterfeiters to benefit from people’s fears to promote fraudulent prevention and treatment. The public is fearful of worst-case scenarios such as contracting the virus and fears medicine shortage and are willing to take matters into their own hands by self-administering fake treatments and vaccines. The FDA warns such reckless actions moreover without medical supervision could delay treatment for COVID-19 and have adverse effects which could be fatal.

To aggravate what is considered a pandemic, there is a growing infodemic – there is an increasing volume of misleading advertisements for treatments and vaccines, rumors of so-called cures regarding COVID-19. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), launched its Fight the Fakes movement, an awareness campaign to warn of the risks of fake treatments and vaccines alleged to treat COVID-19. The World Health Organisation stringently considers any misleading information and falsified medicines promising to treat, protect from or cure COVID-19 circulating on social media and media as an infodemic. All major social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube – including Google have joined together to combat fraud and misinformation.

In this period of great challenge, PharmaSecure’s vision to protect the world from the threat of counterfeit goods and fraudsters has never been stronger and clearer. In this global battle, we are committed to taking all measures, use our expertise to inform, work hard to combat and stem off counterfeit COVID-19 drugs and to save lives and improve outcomes, as best as we can.

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