I am pleased to send greetings to this important gathering on counterfeit medical products. We must join forces to fight this global crime for the sake of international public health.
Victims tend to be sick and vulnerable patients desperate for a cure. Instead their hopes are dashed by worsening illness or even death when counterfeit medicines fail to address their conditions or contain toxic contaminants.
Individuals are not the only ones who suffer. Counterfeit medical products undermine the credibility of health systems, waste resources and diminish confidence in the authorities responsible for public safety.
The problem is pervasive, affecting nearly all countries. Counterfeit products are found in pharmacies, hospitals and many unregulated markets.
Globalization has brought myriad benefits to the world, but intensified international commerce, the expansion of Internet use and increasing access to technology for manufacturing and printing packages has made it easier for counterfeiters to peddle their harmful wares.
Developing countries, which often lack the capacity to stop counterfeit products from entering markets, are hit hardest. Unscrupulous counterfeiters take advantage of poverty, illiteracy and rural isolation to sell worthless products to innocent victims.
Organized counterfeiters operate through international networks, and only an international response can stop them. That is why I am so heartened by this initiative of the Chirac Foundation, headed by former French President Jacques Chirac.
The United Nations is committed to supporting the Call of Cotonou. We stand ready to work with other international agencies, non-governmental organizations, drug authorities, law enforcement bodies, the pharmaceutical industry, health professionals and consumer groups to protect the vulnerable from falling victim to this insidious and illicit trade.
I wish you a productive meeting and look forward to our successful campaign to end this insidious practice.