According to Combating Counterfeit Drugs
, a 2004 report by the US Food and Drug Administration,
The counterfeiting of currency and consumer products are common problems that plague governments and manufacturers around the world, but the counterfeiting of medications is a particularly insidious practice. Drug counterfeiters not only defraud consumers, they also deny ill patients the therapies that can alleviate suffering and save lives. In some countries the counterfeiting of drugs is endemic -- with some patients having a better chance of getting a fake medicine than a real one. In many more countries, counterfeit drugs are common. In the United States, a relatively comprehensive system of laws, regulations, and enforcement by Federal and state authorities has kept drug counterfeiting rare, so that Americans can have a high degree of confidence in the drugs they obtain through legal channels. In recent years, however, the FDA has seen growing evidence of efforts by increasingly well-organized counterfeiters backed by increasingly sophisticated technologies and criminal operations to profit from drug counterfeiting at the expense of American patients.
Forgeries and counterfeits fit the pattern for unintended consequences because they exploit a mechanism that has been installed in the world for purposes other than that used by the forgery. The mechanism was the recognition of a pattern as a way of identifying something. This mechanism wasn't directly installed. The pattern was installed as an identifying device. The pattern depended on pre-existing mechanisms that were believed capable of distinguishing a particular pattern from other similar patterns and that hence could be relied on to distinguish to entities that bore the pattern from other similar entities. Counterfeits exploit the combination of the mechanism and the application of that mechanism to particular patterns by fooling the recognition mechanism by mimicking the pattern.
This is not just a problem for counterfeit drugs and money, it is a problem for international trade in general. See, for example, Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy by Moises Naim.