Counterfeit medicine, as the name suggests, is fake medicine. These illegal products could either (1) be contaminated, (2) lack the active ingredient, (3) contain the wrong active ingredient, (4) contain incorrect doses of the active ingredient, or (5) manipulate expiry dates. Needless to say, counterfeit medicine is an immediate threat to safety and health.
In 2010, the World Health Organisation brought light to this problem with their issue titled “Growing threat from counterfeit medicines”. In this issue, WHO highlighted the severity of the problem. In 2009,
- 20 million counterfeit medicine were seized in China and South East Asia
- 34 million counterfeit pills were seized in Europe
- Counterfeit medicine worth hundreds of millions of dollars were seized in Egypt
Evidently, this illegal trade is a pressing problem that is not localised to a single part of the globe.
How should I protect myself?
1. Purchase only from your trusted pharmacy or clinic
2. Be cautious when purchasing medicine online
3. Be cautious when purchasing medicine overseas
4. Pay attention to the packaging
Are there any signs that the medication packaging has been tampered with? Check the fine print – are there any spelling or grammatical errors? Does the seal look like its been broken and resealed? If any suspicions arise, check in with your pharmacy.
What should I do if I suspect that I’ve bought or consumed counterfeit medicine?
The U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following steps:
1. Of foremost importance would be to ensure your safety. Contact your healthcare professional for medical advice
2. After your health has been assured, contact the pharmacy where you bought the medicine
3. Report to FDA and local authorities
By notifying your local authorities, you can help alert the wider community to the presence of these counterfeit drugs and prevent any possible tragedies.