Original research has found fake chloroquine products in Africa and India. These products have also been found for sale on websites in the United States.
While speaking with counterfeit investigators this past week, I learned several important points. New networks are not the ones supplying the surge in demand for chloroquine products; existing smuggling and counterfeiting networks are. These networks are doing what they always do: taking advantage of new demands and changing circumstances to make money and increase influence. They are simply either stealing, or buying stolen, chloroquine products and hence illegally supplying demand. As that supply dwindled due to high demand, they increasingly turned to making fake versions of chloroquine products.
During the coronavirus shutdown, all businesses wanted to be considered essential so they could keep working. I know the CEO of one printing business in the Philadelphia area who does some work for a local hospital, and he was able to keep working to satisfy this customer. However, his business is a rare exception, and most printing businesses are sitting idle. Packaging is the single most important component of fake medicine. If you can make the packaging look real, most patients won’t bother to even look at the pills closely. Undoubtedly, midnight shifts making packaging for bogus medicines are occurring, as some desperate businesses are happy to do any work.
As supply chains become more stretched, gaps will be filled by suppliers of bogus products. Since the FDA does not do any meaningful batch testing of products on the market, many of these bogus products will not be found.
This article by Roger Bate first appeared in AEIdeas on April 28, 2020.