The Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) is set to launch a new initiative in May 2023 - the E-commerce Alliance for a Socially Responsible Ecosystem (ECARE). This initiative is aimed at combatting counterfeit and unapproved pharmaceuticals being sold online following work done by PSI to identify counterfeits on social media platforms and take down identified infringing products over the last few years.

According to PSI, incidents of pharmaceutical crime increased by 38% in 2021, largely due to the spike in incidents of counterfeit products during and related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new ECARE initiative aims to work directly with online platforms to identify criminal networks, to collaborate with law enforcement agencies, and to take down websites. Participants in the initiative will also be able to monitor an unlimited number of products on e-commerce platforms, whereas PSI's current anti-counterfeiting activities cover a select range of pharmaceutical products.

It has recently been confirmed that the ECARE alliance already has 12 members, namely Amazon, Meta, Mastercard, Interpol, Lazada, Indiamart, Bukalapak, Carousell, JD, Shopee, Tokopedia and Zuellig Pharma.

The lead of the ECARE initiative, PSI's Asia-Pacific regional director, Ramesh Raj Kishore, hopes that this list of members will increase:

"We want to expand beyond the few major e-commerce platforms we are limited to in our disruption exercises, and reach out on a global level to all platforms. So, we are reaching out to big players in the Latin America region (eg, Mercado Libre), and other e-commerce platforms like eBay."

The intention is also to include other payment merchants (Mastercard are currently participating) as well as other law enforcement agencies alongside Interpol. Kishore also hopes to expand ECARE's work into the e-pharmacy space.

As with some other recent anti-counterfeiting news stories, the ECARE alliance is yet another example of major players collaborating to tackle the problem. For example, Amazon has continued to collaborate with numerous high profile brands and law enforcement agencies this year to tackle counterfeiting on its platforms. The extent of the multi-billion dollar global trade in counterfeit products is such that collaboration seems essential to maximise efforts to disrupt counterfeiting operations and supply chains. The risks to public safety posed by pharmaceutical crime of the types targeted by PSI (including counterfeit pharmaceuticals) are significant and so the willingness of the large companies already involved in the ECARE alliance to join forces is certainly promising.

Hopefully, by the time of ECARE's official launch in May 2023, the alliance will have expanded to include even more pharmaceutical and e-commerce heavyweights.

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