Stopping murder by medicine: introducing the Model Law on Medicine Crime

Amir Attaran
American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 2015, 92 (6 Suppl): 127-132
The iatrogenic pandemic of untreated illness related to falsified and substandard medicines is intolerable, but has a logical explanation: in many countries, inadequate laws make it barely illegal to manufacture or distribute poor-quality medicines. The law hardly punishes those who intentionally or recklessly deal in falsified or substandard medicine, when clearly it should criminalize these perpetrators in proportion to the grievous--even fatal--injury they inflict on public health. To solve this omission, this article presents a new Model Law on Medicine Crime, which countries may freely use as a template for strengthening their national laws. The Model Law includes criminal prohibitions against manufacturing, trafficking, or selling poor-quality medicines; principles for appropriately punishing offenders; special provisions for Internet-based medicine crimes; tools for encouraging whistle-blowers to cooperate with law enforcement; incentives for developing governments to strengthen their drug regulatory capacity; and important exceptions to prevent the law being abused, such as to prevent the prosecution of legitimate medical researchers or to prevent good-quality generic medicines being seized while in transit. The Model Law is discussed and explained and is offered free of charge under a Creative Commons license to any governments wanting to implement it.

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