Trade in counterfeit drugs is a growing but illegal business worth billions of pounds a year. Jihène El Kafsi and Peter Raven examine some of the implications
There is a famous scene in the 1949 film The Third Man that illustrates the driving-force behind the counterfeit drug industry. Orson Welles, a black marketeer who has made a fortune by selling fake penicillin in occupied Vienna at the end of the second world war, is at the top of a big wheel with his friend, looking down at the people walking around on the ground below, like so many tiny dots. He asks his friend if his conscience would really trouble him if he were to be given ten thousand dollars for each dot that stopped moving.
Today the business is worth a staggering $35bn a year,1 but for a long while the West has largely ignored the distant dots in the developing world that have stopped moving as a result of the counterfeit drug trade.
The first documented cases of counterfeit drugs date back to the 4th