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Fake medicines entering European supply chain, claims Pfizer chief

Local medicines authorities “really wanted” to tackle the situation and prevent a repeat of the incidents, says Andreas Penk, manager of Pfizer’s German division, who has evidence of Pifzer packs being refilled with fakes

Pharmacists in parts of Europe are aiding the circulation of counterfeit medicines, a senior Pfizer chief has claimed. 

Some pharmacists in Romania had asked patients to return authentic Pfizer medicine packs so that they could refill them with counterfeits, Andreas Penk, manager of Pfizer's German division, claimed.

This strategy had allowed falsified medicines to enter the supply chain on more than one occasion, Dr Penk told the annual general meeting of the European Association of Pharmaceutical Full-line Wholesalers (GIRP) in Vienna on Tuesday (June 3).

Local medicines authorities "really wanted" to tackle the situation and prevent a repeat of the incidents, he said.

Genuine Pfizer medicines had been swapped for counterfeit products in Romania, Pfizer's Andreas Penk claimed

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Dr Penk, who is also head of oncology at Pfizer, said he was increasingly receiving reports of falsified cancer drugs entering the supply chain. He stressed that the counterfeits were "highly unethical", as they often lacked the efficacy of legitimate drugs.

Christa Wirthumer-Hoche, head of the Austrian Medicines Agency, argued that the threat of counterfeits had increased to the point where Europe had to take action. "If you had asked me 10 years ago, is there a fear of falsified medicines, I would have said ‘no'," she told the conference.

"But with globalisation, there is an increased risk. We are relying on active substances manufactured outside Europe or, in some cases, relying completely on manufacturing outside Europe," she pointed out. This made it important to implement the European Union's plans for pharmacists to check all prescription-only medicines at the point of dispensing, Ms Wirthumer-Hoche argued.

GIRP director general Monika Derecque-Pois echoed the point. She told C+D the proposed system would be one of the "most effective means" of preventing counterfeit medicines from infiltrating the legitimate supply chain.

GIRP announced that it was joining the global Fight the Fakes campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the dangers of counterfeit medicines, on Monday (June 2).

Last month, UK medicines watchdog the MHRA took part in an international operation that seized £18.6 million worth of unlicensed and counterfeit drugs around the world.

Have you seen evidence of counterfeit medicines circulating in the UK?
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Dave Downham, Manager

Maybe if Pfizer stock was not so limited then there would be less incentive to supply fakes? Just a thought...

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Obviously easier to get Pfizer meds in Romania than here - If we were going to do it we wouldnt get enough to make it worth while.

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