Drug Counterfeiting in the era of social media26 June 2023
Social media play a crucial role in promoting awareness of specific issues by serving as a significant platform for awareness campaigns. With their ability to reach a diverse audience and foster engagement and interaction, they offer a valuable means of raising awareness. The educational campaign 'Gli Insoliti Sospetti, ti fidi davvero di loro?' returns for the third consecutive year as an educational campaign against the phenomenon of counterfeit medicines. The campaign aims to effectively disseminate accurate and valuable information about the risks associated with counterfeit medicines. Continuing from previous editions, which exposed the illicit activities of Mr. Mask, Ray, Black Cap, and Mrs. Venice – members of a dangerous gang specializing in counterfeit drugs – and drawing on insights from expert clinicians, the campaign has garnered over 42 million impressions since 2021. However, it doesn't stop there. This time, the campaign focuses on informative pills that shed light on the various aspects of drug counterfeiting. Through social media, these pills will provide citizens with a comprehensive understanding of the dangers associated with purchasing and using drugs from unauthorized channels.
Counterfeit medicines operate in a globalized and illegal market, thriving due to their covert and untraceable nature. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 out of every 10 pharmaceutical drugs in low- and middle-income countries is either substandard or falsified, resulting in a turnover 25 times greater than illicit substances. Drugs for erectile dysfunction, in particular, are readily available in unauthorized sales channels and rank second among the most frequently intercepted products by customs authorities. The Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) has noted that supplements, along with sexual enhancers, make up the majority (around 60-70%) of counterfeit health products in Italy. The health risks that citizens unknowingly face by using counterfeit drugs have motivated IBSA to support the new 2023 campaign against drug counterfeiting. This campaign, which was one of the six finalists out of 84 nominations for the Digital Awards - AboutPharma Award in the "Communication towards the citizen, the doctor, and the patient" category, serves as an exemplary demonstration of how social media channels can be effectively utilized to raise awareness about counterfeit drugs and promote safe behaviour.