Widespread access to internet chat boards, paste sites, and classifieds has impacted the distribution of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) article, “Medicines: counterfeit medicines,” falsified medical products are manufactured in regions and countries all over the world. This fact is supported by the abundance of content advertising counterfeit pharmaceuticals on the web.
WHO launched a global surveillance and monitoring system in 2013 to encourage reporting of counterfeit drugs to help develop a more accurate and validated assessment of the scope, scale and harm caused by this issue. In that year alone, over 920 medical products had been reported representing all categories of medical therapies.
“The availability of tableting machines, ovens, specialist equipment, ingredients and packaging materials, [has made] clandestine manufacturing facilities quick and easy to assemble,” the report states. Furthermore, the profusion of “underground” websites makes distribution of counterfeit medications not only more accessible, but often harder to find.
“With the exponential increase in internet connectivity those engaged in the manufacture, distribution and supply of medical products have gained access to a global market place.”
This is where Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) systems can be pivotal in detecting and tracking the underground networks and activity. Using proprietary technology, some platforms are able to comb deep web sources to find individuals selling or manufacturing drugs illegally. The prevalence ranges from social posts to blogs, paste sites, or classifieds promoting counterfeit medications.
No pharmaceutical company is untouched by this issue — it has become a global pandemic reaching from North America and Europe through to Sub Saharan Africa, South East Asia, and Latin America. Both consumers and business forums are capitalizing on the accessibility, making it a challenge to monitor and control manually.
Thousands of unregulated web sources are providing access to medical products to those who may be either self-diagnosing or using these products for recreational use. Using carefully constructed algorithms, OSINT systems can alleviate the overwhelming task of manual searching. Additionally, the sophisticated software can identify networks of individuals and track patterns of life, establishing evidence for further investigation and case management.
Threats to pharmaceutical corporations don’t stop at counterfeit drugs. Due to the controversial nature of this global industry, it’s more common than ever to have both physical and cyber threats made against CEOs and board members; making it critical for executives to monitor and manage their online mentions for threats and risk management.
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