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Men are being warned they could be "gambling with their lives" if they buy fake medicines online.
  Nov 12 2008
Dr David Gillen, medical director for the drug company Pfizer, warned men were more likely to "bypass" the NHS in order to obtain treatments anonymously.
A survey by Pfizer of 900 men over 35 found one in 10 had bought prescription medicines without a script.
The UK's medical regulator said buying medicines online was not illegal, but added it was "not a good idea".
The report says medicines for "lifestyle" conditions such as erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, and weight loss drugs have been traditionally targeted by those who create fake medicines.
But it warns UK authorities have recently seized counterfeit versions of heart attack and cancer treatments.
"At best these will be a waste of money, at worst they can harm or even kill" Naeem Ahmed, Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
Of the men who had bought prescription-only medicines without a prescription, half used the web to do so.
A third cited convenience and speed as the key reasons for buying medicine without prescription.
But the report warns up to 90% of all medicines sold on the internet are thought to be fake.
It said: "It seems that men are turning a blind-eye to the health risks associated with purchasing counterfeit medicines from unregulated sources and are particularly naive about the ingredients that counterfeit medicines might contain."
It adds that fake versions of drugs can be almost impossible to spot, but can containing inactive ingredients like talcum powder, or even toxic ingredients such as rat poison.
'Convenience and anonymity'
Dr Gillen said: "Men bypassing the health system to purchase medicines is a growing problem in the UK, particularly relating to the increased availability of counterfeit medicines.
"These new findings show that men are not only often ignorant about what medicine actually requires a prescription, but worryingly they know buying medicine from illicit sources might be harmful - but convenience and anonymity often outweigh their fear levels."
Naeem Ahmed, head of intelligence at the MHRA, said: "People are advised that they should only take prescription-only medicines after an appropriate consultation with their GP.
"Only suitably qualified healthcare professionals can take into account risks and benefits associated with medicines.
"Anyone who self-medicates and buys their medicines from internet sites could be in danger of receiving counterfeit or substandard medicines.
"At best these will be a waste of money, at worst they can harm or even kill."
He said anyone who suspects they have been offered or sold counterfeit medicines should contact the MHRA, and added: "It is not illegal to buy medicines online but we strongly advise people that buying medicines from the internet is not a good idea, unless buying from a website that has a Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) internet pharmacy logo."
Pfizer Files Suit Against Operators of 18 Internet Sites Selling Illegal Copies of Lipitor(reg)
Article Date: 03 Sep 2004 - 0:00 PDT
Pfizer has filed lawsuits against a second group of operators of eighteen internet sites for selling unapproved and illegal copies of Pfizer's leading cholesterol medicine, LIPITOR(reg), the company said today.
Pfizer said the sites market products identified as "generic Lipitor" or "Lipitor generic," which are not legitimate medicines. LIPITOR(reg) is patent-protected and no generic versions of the medication are legally available in the United States. Tests performed on tablets obtained from two of the websites showed that they contained no atorvastatin calcium, the active ingredient in LIPITOR(reg), and therefore would provide no therapeutic benefit to patients. Pfizer has notified the FDA of its findings.
All the lawsuits seek injunctions against further sales of "generic Lipitor" or "Lipitor generic" and claim damages for infringement of Pfizer's trademark rights. The complaints also seek to remove references to LIPITOR(reg) in advertising materials and to eliminate computer links that misdirect patients to illegal, unapproved products. In addition, Pfizer has filed patent infringement claims against ten site operators to recoup damages and to enjoin further sales of "generic Lipitor" or "Lipitor generic" containing a crystalline form of atorvastatin calcium.
"We want to make consumers aware that many internet sites are selling fake pharmaceutical products that provide little or no benefit to patients and may, in fact, be dangerous," said Jeff Kindler, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Pfizer. "We also want to put operators of these illegal sites on notice that there is a price to pay for their actions."
Suits were filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware against the following individuals and sites:
-- Generic Lipitor;
-- Online Enterprises;
-- Gerard Gibson;
-- Medprescribed;
-- Limestar, Inc.;
-- Askdocweb, Inc.;
-- Michael Becker, and;
-- Intelecorp;
-- Feel-At-Home;
-- International-Pharmacy Corporation;
-- Debra Cohen;
-- John Fitzsimmons;
-- WWW Insight, S.A.;
-- Kris Sarode;
-- GDL Access
Pfizer filed similar suits in April and May against the operators of six other sites selling an unapproved version of LIPITOR. In August, the company took legal action against 30 sites and two operators selling illegal versions of Pfizer's erectile dysfunction medication, VIAGRA.
Counterfeit Drugs Put Lives at Risk
May 14, 2007
BRUSSELS, Belgium--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Pfizer welcomes the 1st European Parliamentary symposium on pharmaceuticals "Putting an end to drug counter-feiting", which convened European policy makers, regulators and specialists on counterfeiting and medicines trading in the European Parliament today.
"Pfizer is very concerned about the surges in counterfeit medicines, putting at risk the lives and wellbeing of patients in Europe and elsewhere," said Julian Mount, Vice President, of European Trade at Pfizer. "Illegal internet trade is one part of the story. However, fake drugs have also made it into the legitimate medicines supply chain in Europe."
Pfizer's particular concern in Europe is the entry of counterfeit medicines into the legitimate supply chain via medicines trading commonly referred to as the parallel trade of medicines between member states. For this to happen, the complex and fragmented nature of medicine distribution in Europe presents multiple opportunities. Over 140 million medicine packs are parallel traded across Europe each year, all are opened and altered and can travel through as many as 20-30 pairs of hands before finally reaching the patient.1
For instance, when counterfeit Lipitor was discovered in the UK supply chain in July 2006 - resulting in a UK-wide recall which involved over 240 pharmacies; over 50% of returned packs were found to be fake. Middlemen companies who trade as intermediaries in buying and selling life saving medicines were directly involved in this case and were found with counterfeits in their possession.
The WHO estimates that 8% to 10% of the global medicine supply chain is counterfeit, reaching as high as 25% in some countries.2
At a WHO meeting in Rome in February 2006, Dr. Nils Behrndt, Deputy Head of Pharmaceuticals Unit DG Enterprise and Industry, highlighted a 1000 per cent increase in counterfeit seizures between 1998 and 2004 in Europe.
"It is particularly difficult for patients to know if a medicine is counterfeit when it is supplied through trusted sources", said Mount. Whether a counterfeit drug comes through an illegal channel or has managed to penetrate the legitimate medicines supply chain - Pfizer strongly believes that patients must be protected against fake medicines that, in the best case, have no effect, or worse can cause serious harm. Pfizer believes this arbitrage system in life saving medicines must stop and prescription medication must be safeguarded from these proven dangers. It is time, with the growth in counterfeits entering the European supply chain, for a substantial review of the way medicines are traded, re-packaged and supplied by numerous intermediaries in Europe.
1 Haigh, J., IMS Global Consulting, quoted in 'Parallel Trade in Medicines', Social Market Foundation, June 2004
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