Model Law on Medicine Crime

47 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2014 Last revised: 16 Apr 2015

See all articles by Amir Attaran

Amir Attaran

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section; University of Ottawa - Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine

Date Written: April 15, 2015


Medicine crime is the dark side of globalization and health. Rising wealth and falling trade barriers mean that more people than ever before are able to afford and access medicines — an overwhelmingly good thing for public health — but this comes at the cost of organized criminals also trafficking falsified or substandard medicines globally, which too often produce tragedies of injury or death.

While this problem is often dealt with as a crime against intellectual property (counterfeiting), in most countries there are few or even no laws to deal with it as a crime against public health. That is a great and curious omission, because the more morally offensive and culpable wrongdoing is the damage that is done to health and well-being.

This Model Law on Medicine Crime represents the first effort of its kind to provide countries with a legislative template to fight medicine crime in their domestic law, putting the emphasis on public health where it belongs. Version 1.1 of the Model Law contains: Accurate definitions of wrongful medicines (i.e. substandard, falsified, unregistered medicines); Provisions delineating the Model Law's jurisdiction; A suite of criminal offences for manufacturing, trafficking, or otherwise dealing in wrongful medicines; Special criminal offences for so-called "internet pharmacies" that operate illegally; Special sentencing guidelines for crimes of greater severity against public health (e.g. that cause death, that target WHO Essential Medicines, or that lead to antimicrobial resistance); general provisions for the administration of criminal justice, and; Special exemptions to legalize the use of unregistered medicines in disaster relief or emergency settings where that is a practical necessity.

Note: The Model Law on Medicine Crime is published on SSRN as a working draft, for review by the broader community. As it is subject to revision, please do not quote or cite this version, except as a work in progress. Please send comments to the author below, with thanks for doing so.

Keywords: falsified medicine, counterfeit medicine, SSFFC medicine, medicine crime, criminology, law, public health

Suggested Citation

Attaran, Amir and Attaran, Amir, Model Law on Medicine Crime (April 15, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Amir Attaran (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine ( email )

451 Smyth Road
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M5

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 ext: 2015 (Phone)
613-562-5659 (Fax)

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