Incidence of counterfeiting of medical products saw a 47% increase during the Covid-19 period, says a study conducted by Delhi-based Authentication Solutions Providers' Association (ASPA).

The organisation, which comes out with periodic reports on the status of counterfeiting in India, said the incidents of counterfeiting were majorly related to Covid-19 medical products, including vaccines, medicines, Covid-19 test kits, antibiotics, face masks and sanitizers. During the Covid-19 peak, incidents of substandard and falsified (SF) medical were observed in 23 out of 29 States and 7 Union Territories of India, it adds. ASPA has over 69 companies providing physical and digital authentication solutions as its members.

The findings are part of ASPA's latest report "Substandard and falsified medical products, learning from Covid-19 Pandemic and Technological tools to ensure medicines & patient safety". The report which highlights the trends on pharmaceutical crime & incidents of SF medical products that happened during Covid-19 also provides recommendations to combat it. It welcomed the central government's decision to make QR Codes mandatory on Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) while suggesting a comprehensive approach towards building an authentication ecosystem in the country.

"The menace of (SF) medical products is not new; unfortunately, the issue is still undervalued and undertreated. Counterfeiting and illicit trade plague all industries, but pharmaceuticals and healthcare are among the most prominent victims, especially when there is a matter of life and death," the report said.

The increase in incidents of SF products was found from 2020 to 2021. The association said that SF products are impacting every products sector, and the incidents of counterfeiting in India have risen with a 20% growth from January 2018 to December 2020.

"Criminals have seen the pandemic crisis as an opportunity to sell more and more substandard and falsified medical products, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the people in need. The tremendous adverse impact of the huge increase in circulation of spurious medicine and medical essentials on the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic has almost gone unnoticed. It is unfortunate as criminals produce ineffective or harmful products in packaging that appear identical to genuine products to make them difficult to detect. The circulation and use of these SF medical products violate the Right to Health and slows down the pace of providing quality health services that people deserve. It is high time for firm action to curb this menace. If preventive steps are taken now, we will be better positioned to deliver effective healthcare to patients," Nakul Pasricha, president, ASPA, said.

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