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Medicines below pharmaceutical quality standards and counterfeit medicines can pose a lethal risk. Interpol, the world's largest international law enforcement organization, estimates that about 30% of all medicines in developing countries are counterfeit or substandard. All medicines can be counterfeited, whether they are branded or generic, life-saving medicines or inexpensive generic versions of painkillers or antihistamines.

A counterfeit medicine can be composed of a mix of toxic and harmful substances, but also of ineffective or inactive preparations. Counterfeiting is more common where regulatory and security systems are less effective. In more industrialized countries, with valid regulations and monitoring systems, the incidence of counterfeit medicines is extremely low – less than the market value of 1%, based on the statistics provided by the countries concerned.

Instead, it is estimated that in some areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America, counterfeit pharmaceutical products make up as much as 30% of the market. In addition, more than 50% of drugs purchased on the Internet from illegal sites, which hide their physical address, were found to be counterfeit.

The Global Pharma Health Fund (Gphf), a charity funded by Merck Serono, is engaged in the fight against counterfeit medicines. Among the tools used by the Minilab, used to detect counterfeit medicines quickly, easily and reliably: these are two suitcases weighing about 30 kg each containing a large number of test kits that public health operators in developing countries can use to inspect pharmaceutical products. Reference samples are used to verify the identity and concentration of a total of 63 active ingredients, including anti-malarial drugs, antibiotics, analgesics and antipyretics.

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Fedaiisf Federazione delle Associazioni Italiane degli Informatori Scientifici del Farmaco e del Parafarmaco