A counterfeit medicine is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as 'a medicine, which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and/or source.'

'Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and counterfeit products may include products with the correct ingredients or with the wrong ingredients, without active ingredients, with insufficient active ingredients or with fake packaging.'

Risk to patients

Counterfeit medicines pose a growing threat to patient safety. Patients' organizations and the public can play a significant role in action to combat counterfeit medicines, particularly by being involved in high-level global coordinated policy action, national policy advocacy, and national and local initiatives to raise public and patient awareness of counterfeit medicines. There are a number of international initiatives aimed at combating counterfeit medicines. Our key messages are:

A global multi-stakeholder approach

Counterfeit medicines have a global reach so no one country is protected.  We all have a responsibility to prevent counterfeits harming patients in vulnerable situations. Collaboration provides the opportunity to maximise knowledge and resources to develop appropriate and cost effective solutions.

Advocating for involvement of patients

Patients themselves as well as health professionals have a valuable role in detecting and reporting counterfeit medicines. Patients need accessible and accurate information.     

We delivered an intervention on the topic at the WHO World Health Assembly in 2013.