Europe – Impact of COVID-19 crisis – National authorities in Europe report shortages of medical products and increase in illegal activities

The Committee of Experts on Minimising Public Health Risks Posed by Falsification of Medical Products and Similar Crimes (CD-P-PH/CMED) held its spring meeting via videoconference from 26 to 28 May 2020. Some 35 delegates from 24 countries participated. A dedicated discussion took place to exchange experience and information related to the COVID-19 crisis.

Delegates’ reports confirmed that criminals never miss an opportunity to exploit a crisis, and most countries had to counter efforts to turn a profit from shortages of medicines and medical devices. Many found arrangements to resolve such problems through regional co-operation or export regulations.

Cases of falsified protective materials and of internet sales of various cures for COVID-19 and of methods claiming to prevent infection by the virus were reported. One case concerned the abuse of a COVID-19 tracing application, which involved phone calls from fake contact tracers trying to get personal information.

All delegates observed an increase in illegal activities linked directly or indirectly to the pandemic. Illegal activities focused mostly on medical devices, rather than on medicines. One explanation for this is that the need for personal protection equipment and medical devices changes less in the short term, and is thus easier to exploit, whereas COVID-relevant medicines are a moving target and their choice depends on what is currently being developed or undergoing clinical trials…