The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) – an independent body that monitors the implementation of the United Nations drug control// standards – is calling for the danger of unregulated markets to be addressed on a priority basis.
In its annual report, the Vienna-based organisation called on member states to enforce legislation to ensure drugs are not illegally manufactured or diverted from authorised manufacture and distribution channels to unregulated markets.
The existence of unregulated markets means that second-rate medicines – which can be lethal – are sold to consumers.
"It is important for consumers to realise that what they think is a cut-price medication bought on an unregulated market may have potentially lethal effects whenever the consumed drugs are not the genuine product or are taken without medical advice," said Philip Emafo, president of the INCB.
"Instead of healing, they can take lives."
In some countries, up to 50 per cent of medicines are fakes, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the growing counterfeit drug market is estimated to be worth a hefty $75bn (€57.3bn) globally by 2010.
The difficulty to monitor the spread of fake drugs is that counterfeit medicines are easy to manufacture – they look like genuine drugs in packaging and labelling.
According to the INCB report, another problem is the wide availability of controlled drugs – narcotics, benzodiazepines, amphetamines and other internationally controlled drugs are easily obtainable in many developing countries.
In addition, countries with weak regulations are most vulnerable to the marketing of counterfeit drugs. The INCP urged regulators to crack down on illegal pharmacies and the sale of medicines over the Internet.
"The problem of counterfeit medication and abuse of pharmaceuticals containing controlled substances bought without prescriptions has been in
existence for some time," said Emafo.
"However, the rapid expansion of unregulated markets has dramatically worsened the situation."
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