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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 4 April 2014

The EU launches a new project to fight falsified medicines in developing countries

Ahead of World Health Day on April 7, the European Union has launched a new project which will support the fight against the production and the trafficking in falsified medicines in Cameroon, Ghana, Jordan, Morocco and Senegal, which are situated along two of the main routes for the production and trafficking in falsified medicines (from Arabian Peninsula and Middle East to West/Central Africa; from East/Horn of Africa, via Yemen and Sudan, to Central Africa).

Falsified medicines are a major threat to public health and safety as they usually contain ingredients which are of bad quality, in the wrong dose or simply ineffective, and in some cases even toxic.

European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, said: "Falsified medicines have become an important source of income for organised crime groups, with extremely high returns, hampering the peaceful development of these countries. ‘With this project we will provide training – to support investigation and criminal justice services, as well as to provide technical support – to detect and analyse suspicious medicines and raise awareness of the risks related to the use of falsified medicines.”

Falsified medicine is a problem that affects developed countries as well as developing countries, since patients all around the world are likely to fall prey to falsified medical products. Accessibility to medical treatments and medical products in many developing countries is a challenge in itself, making them particularly exposed and vulnerable to the dangers of falsified medicines. Approximately 100,000 deaths per year in Africa are due to the trade of falsified medicines (according to the World Health Organisation).

The project will enable the national judicial, control and law enforcement authorities to efficiently respond to the fight against falsified medicines, providing them with the necessary legal framework and capacities to conduct these operations effectively. Countries concerned will be able to share their expertise and best practices, as well as to network in order to harmonise their policies at trans-regional level; potentially leading to joint operations.

The European Commission is contributing more than €4 million to this 3 year project. The funds made available for this project have been provided under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP).


The project will have four main components:

  • update existing legislative framework related to the production and circulation of falsified medicines;

  • development of a national strategy and strengthening of inter-agency cooperation as well as improvement of cross-border cooperation;

  • enhancement of legal capacities, collection, analysis and sharing of information, investigation and providing training;

  • awareness raising campaigns

Approaching the fight against falsified medicines from a perspective of organised crime will be a key element of this project, considering the proportions that the illegal trade and criminal organisations have acquired in the past years. Estimate figures show that the field has doubled in 2005-2010 to an estimated €57 billion in global sales of falsified medicines (according to the World Health Organisation).

Over 30 million counterfeit medicines have been seized by customs at EU borders over the last five years (according to the European Commission Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union), roughly about 1% of the market volume. In West Africa, 60% of the market value of medicines is estimated as falsified products.

Patients in developing countries can turn to the illegal market due to the lower prices, without appropriately measuring the risks they incur. If there is an insufficient regulatory authority and no appropriate means for individuals to verify the authenticity of a medical product, the patient is also subject to purchasing illegitimate products without knowledge from outlets outside pharmacists’ supervision.

This is the case in Senegal, for example, with over 100 shops and even more illicit outlets where the incidence of falsified medicines is higher. This is a risk that can be further aggravated by sales on-line. Currently 62% of medicines purchased online are fake or substandard and 95.6% of online pharmacies researched are operating illegally (according to the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines).

For more information

World Health Day 2014: EU-funded research to fight vector-borne diseases MEMO/14/257

Website of the European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs:

Website of DG Development and Cooperation - EuropeAid – Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (former Instrument for Stability):

Contacts :

Alexandre Polack (+32 2 299 06 77)

Maria Sanchez Aponte (+32 2 298 10 35)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e-mail

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