Rapid Alert System for combating counterfeit medicine

Fact sheet
2 May 2005

Counterfeit drugs are medicines that have been deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to their identity and/or source. Both branded and generic products can be counterfeited. These products could include one or more of the following: correct ingredients, wrong ingredients, inactive ingredients, insufficient active ingredients, fake packaging.

Consequences of counterfeit medicine

  • At best, the use of counterfeit medicine leads to therapeutic failure or drug resistance
  • The use of counterfeit medicine can lead to death.


  • 8% of drugs bought from pharmacies in the Philippines were fake


  • In Viet Nam, 64% of antimalarial pills collected in an investigation did not contain the active ingredient, and led to the death of patients
  • In 2000-01, 38% of shop-bought oral artesunates sampled in Viet Nam, Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar did not contain the active drug.


  • National drug-testing laboratories in Phnom Penh and Bangkok looked at 230 samples of 24 pharmaceuticals purchased on the Cambodian market in 2000, including antibiotics and painkillers. About 3.5% of them contained less than 60% of the labelled quantity of active ingredient. When the study was repeated in 2003, 11% of the samples fell into this category, while some contained the wrong ingredient.


  • In South-East Asian countries, approximately 10% of drugs on the market were believed to be counterfeit.

What is RAS?

  • RAS is a web-based communications network involving focal persons and representatives of countries and areas in the Western Pacific Region, WHO and partner agencies.


  • to alert member countries and areas and relevant partner organizations, through their focal points and representatives in the network, about cases of counterfeit medicine.

How does RAS work?

  • Cases of counterfeit medicine can be reported through the system by using an electronic reporting form. Alternatively, reports can be submitted by other means (e-mail or fax) to the secretariat, which will immediately incorporate them into the system.
  • Depending on the nature of the report, a moderator will disseminate the information to all the members of the RAS.
  • Confirmed cases will be incorporated into the WHO database.