The trade in counterfeit brand-name drugs has mushroomed into an international business that could be worth US$75 billion by 2010 - a 92 per cent increase on 2005's figure - the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates. In Europe, the number of counterfeit pills seized by authorities shot up from 500,000 tablets in 2005 to 2.7 million last year. Half of the world's supply of fake drugs is believed to come from China, where the quality has been raised as a consequence of the arrival of legitimate production by western manufacturers. Some factories have been caught making genuine drugs during the day and producing illegal copies at night. Howard Zucker, WHO assistant director-general for health technology and pharmaceuticals, says a co-ordinated international effort is needed to tackle the problem. 'People don't die from carrying a fake handbag or wearing a fake T-shirt. But they can die from taking counterfeit medicine,' he says. 'International police action against the factories and distribution networks should be as uncompromising as that applied to the pursuit of narcotics smuggling.' The WHO wants greater education of patients, health-care workers and pharmacists to combat the problem, and the use of new technologies to fight the spread of counterfeit drugs. Beijing has taken some steps to tackle the problem since joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001. In 2003, 1,300 illegal factories were closed down after China's State Drugs Administration investigated cases of counterfeit drugs worth US$57 million.