Counterfeit pharmaceuticals: A major threat to public health

Image: Getty, Pixel_Pig
Image: Getty, Pixel_Pig

The illegal trade of substandard and falsified (SF) medical products (also known as counterfeit pharmaceuticals, medicines or drugs) is a global challenge.


  • Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are one of the most profitable forms of counterfeiting in the world posing challenges for healthcare systems globally.
  • The incidence of counterfeit medicines in both developed and developing countries has increased. Developing countries with high levels of poverty and weak regulatory frameworks have become soft targets for counterfeiters.
  • Advances in technology have made it easy for counterfeiters to produce packaging that closely resembles genuine medicines, making it difficult for consumers to distinguish between genuine and fake medicines.
  • It is assumed that fake medicines are only sold on the black market but this is not the case. Fake medicines are available online in both developed and developing countries.
  • Fake medicines contain harmful ingredients that pose a threat to the health and lives of the consumers buying them.
11 Jul 2020


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Research by
SAIIA Policy Insights No 87, July 2020
SAIIA Programme
Economic Diplomacy
health, pharmaceuticals

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