Counterfeit medicines are a threat to patient safety. Counterfeit drugs may include products:

  • Without active ingredients,
  • With incorrect quantities of active ingredients,
  • Wrong ingredients,
  • Correct quantities of active ingredients but with fake packaging,
  • With high levels of impurities and contaminants,
  • That are illegal copies of an original product

Counterfeit drugs have caused serious injury – and even death – around the globe. Dangerous, toxic ingredients have been found in counterfeit medications. People who take these drugs may ingest arsenic, boric acid, brick dust, cement powder, chalk dust, floor polish, leaded road paint, nickel, shoe polish and talcum powder.

Unfortunately, the counterfeiting business is growing. Global criminal networks product and distribute counterfeits in all major therapeutic areas, in all major geographies, and in more than 100 countries. Counterfeit drug sales generated an estimated $200 billion in illicit profits in one year alone.

The Internet contributes to the problem, creating an anonymous, global marketplace for the counterfeit drug trade. Nearly 97 percent of online drug sellers are not legitimate. And 62 percent of medicines purchased online are fake or substandard.

The vast majority of online pharmacy websites do not require a valid prescription to sell a medicine; others issue an on-the-spot “prescription” after patients answer a simple questionnaire. This setting provides the perfect haven for counterfeiters to sell illegitimate medicines.

Any pharmacy that says it orders or ships prescription products from a foreign country is operating illegally. These pharmacies are not operating under appropriate regulatory oversight, and therefore, no authority can guarantee the authenticity of the medication they sell.

No single entity can stop counterfeiting. That's why Lilly is partnering with global government regulatory and law enforcement agencies, other pharmaceutical companies and other parties who want to ensure that patients receive only genuine medicines that are made, distributed and sold by reputable manufacturers and pharmacies that care as much as we do about patient safety. Each of us plays an important role in the fight against counterfeit medicines.