Counterfeit Drug Makers Use Call Centers for Sales

A growing number of counterfeit drug manufacturers are using call centers in the Philippines to facilitate sales, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Police who raided a Philippine call center last week found a product manual for Viagra and other medicines. A script told customers they would “receive the highest standard of pharmaceutical care.” A ledger was used to keep track of feedback from U.S. customers.

During the raid, 150 computers were confiscated but no one was arrested. The center’s manager said he had run the call center for 18 months.

Call centers used by makers of fake pharmaceuticals renew prescriptions, answer questions and try to sell more drugs, the article notes. They often make commissions from sales. Experts say employees may not know they are pitching fake products. The Philippines is the world’s biggest employer of call-center operators, most of them offering legitimate services, the article notes.

Global sales of fake drugs are expected to reach $95 billion this year, up 26 percent from 2010, according to the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. In many developing nations, counterfeit drugs can make up 30 percent of brand-name pharmaceutical sales, compared with 1 percent in developed nations.

Fake versions of Viagra and Cialis are among the most popular counterfeit drugs. Counterfeiters also make drugs to treat AIDS and malaria. Fake drugs often contain a small amount of the active ingredient, but can also contain floor wax, brick dust, boric acid and arsenic.

It can be difficult to catch counterfeiters because they may operate call centers in one country, while locating production and advertising websites in other countries.

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