IPOPHL partners with pharma security group to arrest surge of counterfeit drugs

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) to combat the increase of counterfeit medicines and pharmaceutical products in the market.

“This synergy with PSI will help us better protect the value of IP that is meant for our country’s economic gain and, of course, protect our consumers, especially where fake products involved can harm health and cost a life,” IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba said at the virtual signing of the MOU last Nov. 18.

The MOU will provide the framework for the capacity building, awareness and exchange of information relevant to curb the sale, supply and consumption of counterfeit medicines and pharmaceutical products.

The partnership was sealed to address the challenge of delivering safe medicines and ensuring integrity across the pharmaceutical supply chain.

The MOU noted that this challenge is raising greater concern today, hence, “the need for enhanced cooperation between pharmaceutical industries and government agencies overseeing intellectual property (IP) has become more urgent.”

PSI President and CEO Todd Ratcliffe expressed appreciation for IPOPHL’s efforts in creating their new partnership, emphasizing the urgent need for international-scale collaborations amid global challenges of underfunded investigative groups on counterfeiting and the low prioritization of such cases in other enforcement authorities despite its grave threat to public health and safety.

Ratcliffe warned that counterfeiting has been seeing “a drastic shift” in the past six years from lifestyle drugs, like weight loss steroids, to life saving drugs, such as cancer medications, where more profit can be made.

PSI touted its “vast intelligence base of bad actors,” a collection from its over 20 years of work, as its biggest contribution to its future collaboration with IPOPHL.

“We encourage our members to call us at the very beginning of a case to see if we know something [and] 50% of the time, we have a positive fit on our database,” Ratcliffe said.

He noted that all PSI members are required to share information to cooperate with law enforcement regulators and help protect public health.

The PSI is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to sharing information on the counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals and initiating enforcement actions through the appropriate authorities.

With 37 pharmaceutical manufacturer-members from various nations, the US-based PSI runs representative offices in Miami, Florida, Singapore and Stockholm.

Preliminary data from the IPOPHL-led National Committee on IP Rights show that pharmaceutical and personal care products totaled P29.04 million from January to July this year from P1.46 million in the comparable period in 2020.

In May 2021, the International Criminal Police Organization seized $23 million worth of counterfeit and illicit medicines and medical products, with unauthorized COVID-19 testing kits accounting for more than half. (IPOPHL)