The Anti-Counterfeiting Group (ACG) has joined the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT), in warning consumers about the risks and growing availability of fake, falsified and substandard medical and healthcare products and medicines. ACG, the UK’s premier anti-counterfeiting trade association, representing over 3,000 international brands, reports a surge in ineffective, fraudulent products that threaten both public health and efforts to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Emergency response measures to protect people from the COVID-19 virus must include the urgent need to protect them from fake, falsified and substandard medical products and medicines,” say Phil Lewis, ACG Director General and TRACIT Director-General Jeffrey Hardy. “Someone wearing a falsified or substandard surgical face mask is not only at risk of exposure, but it creates a false sense of security that can actually accelerate the spread to others.”
Worldwide reports indicate a surge in the availability and type of fraudulent medical products intended to exploit the fears of consumers, which includes illicit offerings of falsified versions of treatments such as Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin that will harm or kill already vulnerable patients. Joint operations by the World Customs Organization, Europol and Interpol have resulted in a significant increase in seizures of counterfeit and unauthorized face masks and hand sanitizers.
Phil Lewis and Jeff Hardy stress that “Expectations are that the availability of fakes and fraudulent products on the Internet will increase dramatically, especially with the closure of retail stores and the imposition of social distancing strategies. People must be especially careful when ordering online from, websites, e-commerce platforms and social media, where outright fraud and advertising of fakes is already a major problem.”
Dids Macdonald, OBE., CEO of ACID said, “As close associates and supporters of the ACG through TRACIT, we offer our full support to sharing this valuable information to safeguard those at risk from C-19 globally and advocate for an early warning to be issued by our Government alerting the UK to this potentially dangerous sale of counterfeit goods. Those who exploit life threatening infection through selling counterfeit products are the lowest of the low.
ACG’s product warning list includes fake, falsified and substandard medical products such as surgical masks, hydro-alcoholic gels, testing kits and thermometers. Also listed for increased vigilance are high demand healthcare and consumer products prone to counterfeiting, including cleaning solutions, toilet paper, anti-bacterial wipes, indoor sports equipment, refrigeration appliances, food products and reading materials.
ACG is calling for intensified action by government, law enforcement, Internet platforms and brand owners:
- Government needs to make a clear statement that “profiteering” is not the only concern in in responding to fraud. Three is clear need to alert consumers and business about the need to be aware of the growing existence of dangerous fake products being sold during the COVID-19 crisis. They need to, allocate resources to block the distribution of fakes, warn consumers about the risks of fake and fraudulent products, especially online sales, and impose immediate sanctions on the manufacture and sale of fraudulent COVID-19 related products.
- Law enforcement need to be alert to the threat, clamp down on the criminals involved, increase vigilance for stolen, tampered and expired medical products and medicines, and establish a coordinated national strategy to share intelligence, best practices and cooperate on cross-border investigations.
- Internet eCommerce platforms must intensify prevention policies, policing and the takedown of online sales of counterfeit and fraudulent COVID-19 related products.
- Brand owners need to increase security of supply chains for genuine COVID-19 related medical products and medicines, share data with law enforcement where supply chains have been compromised and raise awareness about online shopping fraud.
In the longer run, ACG has expressed concern that the COVID-19 Pandemic underscores the urgent need for a strong international policy framework to combat the illicit trade of fake, falsified and substandard medical products and medicines.
“Once we get past this crisis, we’ll need to double our efforts to prevent counterfeiting and falsification of medical products and medicines,” said Phil Lewis. “This must start with stronger provisions for preventing the availability of illicit products online and stronger measures to keep illicit pharmaceuticals out of the physical supply chain, including postal and express carrier infrastructures.”