GENEVA, Jul 09 :To address the corona virus pandemic the increase in demand for medical products has led to an expansion in the trafficking of substandard and falsified merchandise.
According to UN research “Health and lives are at risk with criminals exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to cash in on public anxiety and increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE)and medications.
Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said the corona virus has further highlighted the shortcomings in regulatory and legal frameworks aimed at preventing the manufacturing and selling of these products.
The research reveals that criminal gangs are exploiting both the uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus along with inconsistencies in national regulation regimens.
“Transnational organized crime groups take advantage of gaps in national regulation and oversight to peddle substandard and falsified medical product”, the UN crime-fighting chief said.
The falsification of medical products bears significant risks for public health as products may not properly treat the disease and may facilitate the development of drug resistance.
Criminal groups have also quickly adjusted to the opportunities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit the vulnerabilities and gaps in the health and criminal justice systems.
Evidence shows that fraud, scams and seizures, involving the manufacture and trafficking of substandard and falsified medical products, have followed the spread of the virus.
The pandemic has also highlighted a boom in data-based scams – including phishing, and business email attacks – or the creation of fake corporate websites to fool purchasers.
UNODC’s research also predicts that the behaviour of organized criminal groups will gradually change over the course of the pandemic.
When a vaccine is developed, it will likely lead to a shift in focus away from PPE smuggling to trafficking in the vaccine, the research pointed out.
Moreover, cyberattacks on critical infrastructure involved in addressing the pandemic are also likely to continue in the form of online scams aimed at health procurement authorities, according to the research.
Strengthening legal frameworks and penalties, and a more harmonized global approach to the criminalization of the manufacture and trafficking of falsified medical products is crucial, as only a common approach will enable effective responses to crimes impacting individuals and public health, the UNODC brief maintains.
At the same time however, preventing, detecting, and responding to medical product-related crime will require people who work in the medical product sector to acquire new or additional skills.