Health

European Parliament approves fake medicine directive

  • 17 February 2011
  • From the section Health
Medicine
Image caption Around 30bn prescription medicines are dispensed in Europe each year

A new directive to protect patients from fake medicines has been approved by the European Parliament.

It paves the way for new safeguards including extra safety features on drug packaging and new measures for internet pharmacies.

An estimated 1% of medicines sold to the public in Europe through legal channels are fake.

Experts say they are "silent killers", either because they do not work or contain harmful substances.

The 27 EU governments - the Council - will now study the directive and they can still make amendments before it becomes law. The final text will then be incorporated into national laws EU-wide within two years.

The National Pharmacy Association, which represents community pharmacists in the UK, said the legislation aimed to reduce the risk of counterfeit medicines reaching patients by introducing a product authentication system and new safety features on packaging.

The key to the system is a two-dimensional barcode added to prescription medicines that can be read by a new scanner.

Charles Willis of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said: "We believe that this is something that the UK Government must buy into and is good for every patient."

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