This white paper examines the issue of counterfeit drugs, reviewing the various types produced and the nature and range of the damage they cause. The report then focuses on analytical methods for tackling the problem, in particular the use of X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD).

Compared to other forms of counterfeiting, the production of fake medicines almost certainly has the greatest potential for harming human health. The scale of the problem is immense with, for example, an estimated 2 - 300,000 people die in China each year as the result of counterfeit medicines. The impact is most severe in poor countries. However, the phenomenon is not limited by national boundaries; counterfeit drugs have been detected on numerous occasions in the highly regulated pharmaceutical supply chains of the world’s most developed countries. 

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