Brazil, India urge WHO to dump drug firms from counterfeit fight

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Brazil and India on Wednesday urged the World Health Organisation to cut its link with big pharmaceutical firms in the fight against counterfeit medication.

They claim that these major drugmakers are unfairly labelling generic medicines as counterfeits, and using the fight against fake medication to suppress competitors who are making lawful generic drugs.

"A divorce is inevitable," Brazil said at the annual World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva this week.

Brazil and India are big producers of generic drugs.

Together with some Latin American and African developing countries, the two countries called on the WHO to end a partnership established in 2006 called IMPACT (International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce), which includes groups that represent the interest of pharmaceutical firms.

The group also includes key inter-governmental agencies such as Interpol, the World Customs Organization, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.

"The role of IMPACT is controversial," said India, adding that governments should be the ones in charge of the fight against counterfeit medicines.

In response, WHO director-general Margaret Chan only said that IMPACT was created before she arrived at the WHO.

To that, Kenya offered a riposte, telling Chan: "If you're not satisfied with the marriage, you could ask for a divorce."

The proliferation of potentially lethal or harmful counterfeit medicines has been on the rise, particularly with the increased usage of the Internet worldwide.

According to the WHO, more than half of all medicines bought online are fake.

Malaria treatments are the main counterfeit medicines sold by criminal organisations, according to the International Pharmaceutical Federation, which represents two million pharmacists worldwide.

© 2010 AFP

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