Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals: Examining the Multidimensional Risks to African Nations

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Described as the crime of the twenty-first century, counterfeit products threaten public health and safety, reduce jobs and tax bases, and inhibit corporate innovativeness and profitability. The production, distribution, and consumption of counterfeit pharmaceuticals represent a particularly dangerous public health risk; estimates of the numbers of counterfeit pharmaceuticals range from 10 to 15 percent of the world drug supply. Counterfeit drugs indirectly and directly adversely affect health. Indirectly, false drugs hasten the illness and death of consumers who do not receive the appropriate active agent or dosage to treat their conditions, and sub-potent pharmaceuticals that do not kill a disease-causing pathogen can eventually lead to the development of drugresistant strains, making even the authentic drugs useless. More directly, toxic ingredients in counterfeit pharmaceuticals can cause serious health problems.

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Due to its considerable negative consequences, product counterfeiting is a global problem that is a growing concern for consumers, government entities, law enforcement, and businesses. Unfortunately, current assessments of the nature and extent of the problem are largely unreliable and based on methodologies with significant limitations. This article examines the current approaches to measuring product counterfeiting, complementing those with a review of methods used to examine other crimes. It concludes by discussing the applicability of both commonly used and novel research methodologies, as they might apply to the study of product counterfeiting.
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