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Counterfeit medications are a growing threat, security and health officials around the world are warning.
The impotence treatment Viagra and drugs for treating Alzheimer's disease are among those being regularly counterfeited by criminals. Given that today is World Alzheimer's Day, it is an apt time to consider this problem. Alzheimer's disease affects 820,000 people in Britain according to the Alzheimer's Research Trust.
There are currently 4 drugs licensed for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease in the UK. But counterfeit versions of these drugs are unlikely to benefit patients and may in fact cause them harm. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s.
Impotence treatments like Viagra are regularly counterfeited, with these fake medications then being sold on the black market. Analyses of fake Viagra have detected sawdust, chalk and bat droppings as being among the ingredients used.
In Japan, anti-Alzheimer's drugs have been reported as among those seized by customs officials.
In Europe, John Pulford, head of risk management at the European Union's taxation and customs union directorate said: "We have seen for the past few years fairly large seizures of [counterfeit] Viagra."
"But we're now seeing seizures of fake medicines, anti-cholesterol tablets, anti-asthma items, even Alzheimer's medicine," he said, adding that French customs seized 542,00 tablets last year alone.
This worrying problem is something that officials are looking to crack down. "One of the biggest problems we face is that the fakes are so good the customs officials cannot tell the difference between the real and the fake," Pulford admits.