In 2011, medicines topped the list of fake products entering the EU

Imitation iPods and bogus Burberry – counterfeit goods are a costly problem for legitimate manufacturers in every industry. But you might be surprised at which industries are worst affected.

In 2011, EU customs officers stopped 115 million products suspected of violating intellectual property (IP) rights – up 15% from 103 million in 2010, according to a report from the European Commission. Medicines (the top category) accounted for 24% of those, sitting above packaging material at 21% and cigarettes at 18%. The cost to the pharma industry is not trivial: the retail value of all those fake medicines – 68% of which came from China – was EUR28 million (£22 million). But the potential cost to the consumer is much greater. Whereas fake consumer goods such as clothes can fall apart after a few outings, fake drugs – which have been known to contain all kinds of toxic substances including rat poison – can kill.