The rise of fake pharmaceutical drugs around the world is alarming and is a great danger especially to those who consume these drugs. Due to this, pharmaceutical companies are trying to do their best to ensure people do not use these fake drugs which could harm their health further.
The pharmaceutical industry is worth $300 billion but with the rise of darknet markets, the profits and reputation of pharmaceutical companies have dropped and will continue to do so until counterfeit products are eliminated from the market.
Pharmaceutical companies have hired an ex-police officer, Tim Ramsey, to look for drugs which are being made in untested laboratories and thereafter sold in (darknet markets)* (DNMs) and also for fake drugs.
Tim Ramsey works for Centient, a company that focuses on finding counterfeiters using technology and other relevant information. Once counterfeiters are found, they give the information to the police so that the vendors can be shut down.
Most products bought by Centient are either sold as scam or are fake. They test these products to find out whether they really contain the ingredients which have been listed on the label.
Tim Ramsey together with his team consisting of 15 computer experts are trying to protect genuine brands online by finding and buying counterfeit products from the darknet markets.
They use computers which all identifying information such as Facebook accounts, email accounts or registered operating systems have been permanently removed. Communication is done through encrypted emails and shipments are made to covert addresses. Payment is done via bitcoin.
This ensures the sensitive information is not traced by any other people. Centient uses its own software that keeps track of both the darknet and open internet at all times during the day. It uses this software to find brands and keywords that help them track suspicious activity.
One of the things discovered by Ramsey is that most people are opting to buy medication from the darknet markets, not because they want to but because circumstances force them to.
It is cheaper to buy prescription drugs from the darknet markets rather than pharmaceutical companies. Hence, for those who may have financial troubles, price is a determining factor of where they will buy their prescription drugs from.
According to Ramsey’s findings, the darknet markets continue to grow rapidly. According to Fortinet, a cybersecurity consultancy company, the number of prescription drugs listings in Agora rose to almost 25,000 between March and August.
This is 50% increase. One of the largest darknet markets, Agora, went offline claiming to repair security flaws but there are many other darknet markets that sell illegal and fake drugs.
Another alarming fact is that some of the prescription drugs sold in the darknet markets contain no active ingredient which means the drugs are completely useless to the consumer. On the other hands, some of the drugs sold had too much of the active ingredient or a wrong active ingredient.
This was confirmed by bill Reid who is the director of global anti-counterfeiting at Eli Lilly & Co. Some counterfeit products sold online contain harmful ingredients including household cleaners, rat poison and heavy metals among other things.
In April 2015, a 21-year old girl named Eloise Parry from Shrewsbury died from taking “slimming” pills that she bought online. The “slimming” pills taken by Eloise contained Dinitrophenol (DNP) which is a highly toxic substance.
It is an industrial chemical which is used as a pesticide or an antiseptic. It has no antidote. Medics who were catering to her said the pills burned her up from within which lead to her death.
In the 1930s, it was discovered that DNP could increase metabolism and was thus used as one of the ingredients in diet pills. However, it was later banned due to its lethal effects.
Patients who consumed the substance suffered from fevers which went as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Alastair Jeffrey, the head of enforcement at the British government agency that regulates sales of medicine observed that many people are comfortable using the online platform when purchasing products but he also warned that the same platform is being used by criminals to carry out their illegal activities.
In June, the agency seized devices and drugs which were fake or unlicensed that amounted to 16 million pounds.
According to the security chief at German’s Bayer AG, Michael Sorge, the illegal drug makers use a relay system. The drugs are made in Asia and afterwards shipped to European countries for distribution.
Hence, people who buy these products think they are genuine since they are being manufactured in Europe. There was a case in Germany that proved how the illegal drug market works.
The case involved a gang of 7 members who were selling diet pills and erectile dysfunction pills. According to the court document, the gang was processing 17,000 orders a month.
These drugs were made in China or India and stored in Spain and the Czech Republic. The drugs were then shipped to people in various European countries. Funds from these drugs were deposited in Cyprus.