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Ukraine Struggles Against Fake Drug Trade

> The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 20 percent of the market in ex-Soviet republics like Russia and Ukraine could be made up of fakes and warns that the trade is putting patients at risk.

"The counterfeit pharmaceutical problem is very strong in Ukraine," said John Anderson, head of the Britain-based Global Anti-Counterfeiting Network, who travels frequently to Ukraine.

"The pharmaceutical companies don't tell anyone.

They're desperate not to raise alarm over possible pharmaceutical fakes in case the market for their products drops like a stone," Anderson said.

Government checks, he added, are also "wildly open to corruption." But officials in this former Soviet republic have vowed to stamp out the fake medicine problem as part of a drive for Ukraine to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Health authorities have established a network of 27 laboratories for testing and legislation making medicine counterfeiting a criminal offence is expected to be adopted by parliament later this year.

The medicine inspection service for Ukraine has issued five product recalls so far this year because of health risks and in an interview with AFP deputy chief inspector Vladislav Onishchenko rejected charges of corruption.

Industry representatives have welcomed such initiatives but say that in eastern Europe as a whole not enough effort is being made to root out counterfeiting.

"It's often difficult to get an investigation going," said Ashley How of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, a US-based industry group that works with police and in-company investigators from major pharmaceutical firms.

Experts identify Russia, frequently ranked one of the world's biggest producers of counterfeit medicines, as among the main sources for the fakes in Ukraine and the EU.

As in Ukraine, Russian lawmakers are also discussing proposals to toughen penalties
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