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The production of counterfeit drugs conforms to the objectives of organized criminal

syndicates throughout the world. Prior to the internet having pseudo-Canadian


pharmacies, the Naples-based Camorra had pioneered the counterfeit pharmaceutical
industry with clandestine facilities manufacturing products as early as 19951. These
counterfeit pharmaceuticals often entered the supply chain through legitimate sources
such as in 1998 when 6,000 bottles of Losec, a proton-pump inhibitor for acid-related
diseases, were parallel-imported from a licensed Italian dealer2.

Organized crime groups are highly efficient, structured, and operated by intelligent
individuals. Take for instance the Russian Mafia which has nearly 300 distinguishable
groups consisting of 100,000 members3. The Russian Mafia is guided by an 18-part code
of conduct known as the “Thieves’ Code” and professional thieves are called “Thieves
in-law” with much of the formalities arising from the Gulags. The Sicilian Mafia,
Chinese Triads, and the Russian Mafia pose a significant threat to the pharmaceutical
industry as they take advantage of new scientific and manufacturing techniques to
produce high-quality counterfeit drugs4.

No product is safe from these skilled Mafioso’s from cancer drugs, cholesterol-lowering
medications, flu vaccines or contraceptives. It has all been counterfeited and may
continue to be. The reasons are varied for this continuation but the overriding theme is
lax punishment and max profits. Penalties for counterfeiting prescription drugs are less
severe than peddling illicit drugs. Chuck Austin, president of the Global Pharmaceutical
Supply Group once said, “The punishment for counterfeiting ethical pharmaceuticals
does not fit the crime5.” Manufacturing a branded prescription drug label carries a
maximum of ten years while just producing the drug itself is punishable up to three
years6.

The pros outweigh the cons for these criminals engaging in this activity because it barely
affects human resources and profits are substantial. Detecting this type of activity is a
persistent problem for law-enforcement especially in our current age of globalization
where the products are trafficked from one free trade zone to another with minimal
regulations. In 2007 authorities in Dubai announced they had made a seizure of
counterfeit pharmaceuticals which had spanned the globe. The complex string ran from
China, the UAE, Britain, Bahamas, with the terminal destination for American customers
believing they were buying pharmaceuticals from an online Canadian pharmacy7.

1
Partnership for Safe Medicines, Inc., (2005). Counterfeit drugs in Europe. Retrieved June 26, 2008, from
http://www.safemedicines.org/resources/europe.pdf
2
Partnership for Safe Medicines, Inc., (2005). Counterfeit drugs in Europe. Retrieved June 26, 2008, from
http://www.safemedicines.org/resources/europe.pdf
3
Richards, James R. (1999). Transnational Criminal Organizations, Cybercrime, and Money Laundering: a handbook for law enforcerment
officers, auditors, and financial investigators. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press LLC.
4
Liddick, Donald (2004). The Global Underworld: Transnational Crime and the United
States. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc..
5
Lica, Lorraine (2005, November 7). Wholesalers take a stand for uniform national licensure. Retrieved June 26, 2008, from
ModernMedicine.com Web site: http://drugtopics.modernmedicine.com/drugtopics/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=193797
6
Lica, Lorraine (2005, November 7). Wholesalers take a stand for uniform national licensure. Retrieved June 26, 2008, from
ModernMedicine.com Web site: http://drugtopics.modernmedicine.com/drugtopics/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=193797
The domains from which many of these online pharmacies originate are either falsely
documented with a nonexistent address or stem from Eastern Europe and China. The
connection between online pharmacies, organized crime, and the counterfeit
pharmaceuticals being sold is a phenomenon that is complex and intertwined. Organized
crime units have developed techniques ranging from internet engineering, manufacturing
counterfeit products, and manipulating the parallel-import market. This exemplifies the
intelligence of the various mafias in this struggle to keep the pharmaceutical supply chain
free from contamination. The sophistication of their cyber-armies, logistical abilities, and
manufacturing processes will continue to adapt against the challenges faced.

7
Bogdanich, Walt (2007, December 11). Counterfeit Drugs’ Path Eased by Free Trade Zones. NYT,
Retrieved June 26, 2008, from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/world/middleeast/17freezone.html?
fta=y