Annual Pharma Fraud Report: BrandShield's & PSI's Mission to Combat Online Pharmaceutical Scams
In an era where the convenience of online shopping intersects with the critical need for medications, the pharmaceutical industry faces a growing threat—online scams. As the digital landscape expands, so does the illicit trade of fake drugs, putting both consumers and pharmaceutical companies at risk. A recent collaboration between BrandShield and the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) has shed light on the alarming extent of this issue. While 2023 data is still being collected and analyzed, the annual Pharma Fraud report revealed a staggering 434 rogue pharmacies and 7,500 fraudulent drug listings removed from January 2022 to January 2023.
The Global Scale of the Problem
The report exposes the global scale of criminal fraud, targeting innocent patients in need of life-saving medications. The removed listings included a wide range of health products including painkillers, sedatives, weight-loss pills, and steroids offered in various forms such as capsules, tablets, powders, and injectables. The counterfeit medications falsely claim to treat various critical conditions such as cancers, HIV, and type 2 diabetes.
BrandShield's CEO, Yoav Keren, emphasizes the continuous targeting of consumers by cybercriminals using counterfeit listings, highlighting the immense risks to public health in the absence of adequate enforcement and proactive takedown efforts.
Navigating Legal Liabilities in the Pharmaceutical Industry
The pharmaceutical industry, heavily regulated to ensure compliance with global laws, faces a significant threat from fake and unauthorized drugs. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals not only jeopardize brand reputation and erode bottom line and company revenue but also pose legal consequences. The illicit trade of counterfeit drugs undermines the industry's efforts to provide safe and effective medications, leading to potential legal liabilities for manufacturers. Companies often face expensive lawsuits for counterfeits, even if they were not directly involved in their creation. This legal vulnerability underscores the importance of monitoring and removing counterfeit drugs to mitigate the burdens imposed on manufacturers.
BrandShield, with vast experience protecting major pharmaceutical companies worldwide, plays a crucial role in removing unauthorized drugs, phishing websites, and counterfeit listings across websites, social media pages, and marketplaces.
The Public Health Crisis of Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals
Beyond the legal implications, the proliferation of counterfeit pharmaceuticals presents a severe and immediate threat to public health. These fraudulent drugs not only deceive consumers with their visual resemblance to authentic medications but can lead to devastating consequences for individuals relying on them for critical health conditions. Counterfeit drugs often contain incorrect or substandard ingredients, lacking the necessary efficacy and safety standards. Patients unknowingly consuming these fraudulent medications face heightened health risks, ranging from adverse side effects to the exacerbation of their underlying medical conditions.
As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the urgency to address this public hazard becomes crucial, requiring collaborative efforts across industries, regulators, and law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals seeking essential pharmaceutical treatments online.
Emerging Trends in Online Pharma Scams
The digital age has brought new risks for pharmaceutical companies, providing fake drug sellers with easy-to-use platforms to spread their products. Online pharmacies, numbering in the tens of thousands, present a challenge for consumers to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate sources. Some online drug listings operate as phishing websites, using enticing discounts on in-demand medications to trick unsuspecting consumers into providing personal information. In their latest report, BrandShield and PSI highlight an ongoing pattern, in response to market takedowns, fake pharmaceutical operations consistently shift to social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now hubs for the sale of counterfeit medications, contributing to a surge in fraudulent activities within social media.
BrandShield's analysis reveals that thousands of fake items were removed from these platforms during the same twelve-month period. The report emphasizes the necessity for ongoing vigilance and collaboration with industry stakeholders to combat this issue effectively.
Breakdown of takedown rate by social media platform:
- Facebook – 96%
- Instagram – 90%
- Twitter – 78%
- YouTube – 57%
BrandShield's collaborative efforts also exposed a disconcerting surge in the sale of counterfeit weight loss medications, with injectable formulations taking the lead. Beyond individual drug categories, there is a general increase in counterfeit metabolism drugs, encompassing areas such as weight loss and diabetes management. However, in contrast to other pharmaceutical categories, weight loss injections display a unique robustness, as they are still sold in both traditional marketplaces and social media channels.
The problem of counterfeit drugs is complex, involving various sellers and countries. The removal of counterfeits demands expertise and advanced technology. As the digital landscape evolves, the pharmaceutical industry must remain vigilant, employing advanced cybersecurity measures and fostering collaborations to protect the well-being of consumers and the integrity of the pharmaceutical supply chain.
BrandShield's collaboration with PSI demonstrates a commitment to safeguarding consumers and the broader pharmaceutical industry from online threats and criminal activities and to addressing this multifaceted challenge, showcasing the importance of partnerships, technology, and vigilance in safeguarding consumers and the pharmaceutical industry at large. BrandShield removed more than 7,500 fraudulent pharmaceutical listings across various online platforms. This effort not only protected consumers but also accounted for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit drugs. The report serves as a call to action for industry stakeholders, regulators, and cybersecurity experts to join forces in the ongoing battle against the illicit trade of counterfeit drugs online while emphasizing the importance of continuous monitoring and proactive measures to ensure a safer digital pharmacy.