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Counterfeit drugs: an Australian perspective

A recent report on counterfeit drugs and online pharmacies highlighted the global impact of falsified or substandard drugs.1 In countries with stringent legislation, governance and customs, such as Australia, the prevalence of counterfeit medications is low and estimated by the World Health Organization to be less than 1% of market value.2 Substandard medications are a greater issue globally, with reduced efficacy and potential for contamination.3 All may have serious and unpredictable risks (Box).

Globally, there are about 36 000 active internet pharmacies, of which less than 5% are estimated to be legitimate. In the United States and the European Union, consumers have access to a list of authorised websites, such as LegitScript (https://www.legitscript.com) and the EU common logo (via national websites listed with the European Medicines Agency). In contrast, in Australia, there is currently no government-endorsed safe list of Australian internet pharmacies. In June 2015, 115 countries including Australia participated in Operation Pangea, an international week of action targeting the online sale of counterfeit and illicit medicines; over 20 million falsified medicines were seized, 429 investigations were launched, and 2414 websites were taken…