Academy responds to online ‘market’ of fake Red Books
AlysonSulaski Wyckoff, Associate Editor
A discovery of counterfeit copies of the AAP Red Book sold online has prompted the Academy to launch an investigation and consult a Washington
D.C.-based law firm specializing in intellectual property rights.
Some unsuspecting buyers of what is known as the “bible of pediatric infectious diseases”
are finding copies of the classic reference have their own form of infection: They
are photocopied fakes, some with missing pages, misspelled words (including the spelling
of “Diseases” on the book’s spine), or sections that fall out of cheaply made bindings
(see image below).
The counterfeit “new” versions of the 30th edition book published in 2015 are offered
at reduced prices on Amazon.com and other online sellers. If the price seems too low
compared to AAP pricing, it is most likely a counterfeit copy,” said AAP CEO/Executive
Vice President Karen Remley, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., FAAP. “We take this very seriously,
and we’re going to do everything we can to mitigate the problem and most importantly
to be sure every pediatrician has the right information at the right time to care
for every child.”
Health, safety of children
While the Academy addresses the legal and marketing ramifications of the pirated books,
Red Book Editor David W. Kimberlin, M.D., FAAP, said the most important issue is what it potentially
means for the health and safety of children.
“We know what’s in the Red Book, but what we don’t know is what’s in those counterfeit copies,” he said, citing an
example of medication doses and other critical medical information that might not
be accurate in the fake copies.
“Many pediatricians may not be aware they have a counterfeit product in their possession,”
Dr. Kimberlin added. “They may think it’s reliable when it’s not, and that’s very
dangerous. Obviously, it’s very concerning to me and to all the members of the Committee
on Infectious Diseases (COID) and AAP leadership.”
Massive undertaking, review
More than 1,000 hands touch each edition of the Red Book during its production, now in its 79th year. Each edition reflects multiple layers
of review and takes a full three years to pull together — what Dr. Kimberlin describes
as a massive undertaking.
“The Red Book … is a very up-to-date, concise resource available to pediatricians around the U.S.
and around the world to assist them in the care of their patients,” he said. “It reflects
the settled science … but also reflects in those situations where there’s not absolute
data on exactly what to do, the measured opinion of the world’s experts that make
up COID as to what would be a reasonable (approach).”
The goal of the Red Book is the goal of the Academy, he noted: to improve the health and well-being of children.
That includes issuing errata and updates between the publication of editions of the
book, which buyers of counterfeit editions miss out on.
Medical reference books, such as the Red Book, with many editions (reflecting perennial sellers) and pages printed in black and
white are especially vulnerable to piracy.
The proliferation of lower-cost technology to copy logos, pages and packaging, plus
greater consumer web access and multiple channels for international distribution,
make book counterfeiting a big problem for publishers. Add to that the difficulty
of identifying “anonymous” sellers online and the sheer number of items being offered
on sites such as Amazon’s.
However, technology also can help discourage the practice. Among the processes the
Academy is investigating is one called void pantograph technology. When pages are
copied, a word such as VOID appears across the copied page.
Experts recommend one way to avoid purchasing a counterfeit book is to read the online
reviews, such as the following excerpts from buyers of counterfeit Red Books on Amazon:
“…the pages are coming out from the center. Very disappointing.”
“…when I opened the book a page was not intact, this makes it difficult to thumb through…”
“…only thing wrong is that this version I received is missing about 20 pages …”
Dr. Kimberlin said it’s important to raise awareness of the risks of acquiring the
“It puts the responsibility on purchasers, as well,” he said, “to make sure they are
getting a legitimate product from a legitimate source.”