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Counterfeit Drugs

Updated on April 9, 2014

Medicines are found in everybody's cabinet. We have acetaminophen, pain killers, penicillin. Name it, we have drugs in our house. Did you know that we get counterfeit drugs from other countries? Recent studies have shown that most medicines that we take are fake drugs from China and India. Some of them wouldn't even require prescriptions especially if they are sold online. They are marked as affordable, but are not safe. Most counterfeit drugs have fake logos and are contaminated. These drugs make their way to hospitals, pharmacies around the country and other parts of the world. These medicines combat heart disease and fight cancer. It is hard to spot a counterfeit drug from the real drug because they are identical.

This is how they ship and process the fake drugs. In China, the chemicals that make up popular antibiotics such as the over-the-counter drugs, or prescription drugs are gathered together. These chemicals will be shipped to a country such as India which are shaped into pill form. From India, they are packaged using fake logos of popular drugs. Once they are packaged, they are sent to ports such as the Netherlands and from there, they are shipped all over the world including US and Canada. One hundred percent of our medications, half are prescription drugs come from India and China.

Two health experts appeared on the Dr. Oz show to explain how these counterfeit drugs are shipped to the US. According to Roger Bate, Field Researcher and the author of Phake, said that we can buy counterfeit drugs in regular pharmacies including the internet. There are about 10,000 websites that sell medicines that are fake. Counterfeit dugs are targeting consumers online. According to Elizabeth Jungmann, Director of Drug and Safety and Innovation of The Pew Charitable Trusts, of the thousands of pharmacies where we get the medicines, 97% are problematic and 87% are not even asking for prescriptions. What seems a good deal online may be a bad deal for our health. The speakers discuss the risks of taking fake drugs. Most of them could be life threatening. They have toxic substances which are part of the drug. Some of them are blood thinners that cause patients to get sick and even die. Some of these medicines do not have active ingredients such as cancer drugs. One example is when a patient is suffering from cancer, she takes the drug and dies from cancer not knowing that it was the drug that caused her death.

Bate said that we couldn't tell the fake ones from the real drug. Some of the contents of the fake medicines are chalk, talcum powder, road paint. They put on acetaminophen to add sheen to the product to make it look real. One example of a fake drug that is commonly found online is fake Viagra. There are some people who have taken potent drugs suffered from a heart attack.

Jungmann discussed the FDA's stand regarding this issue. The FDA is collaborating with the manufacturing industry and law enforcement officials. They shut down illegal pharmacies and illegitimate supply chains. They have a new tool as a result of a new law that was passed in November that requires manufacturers to put a unique serial number on every bottle of medicine. This can help the consumer track the medicine as it goes through the supply chains. It allows the physicians and pharmaceuticals to check the serial number to verify if it's not fake before they give it to their patients. The FDA is responsible for ensuring that everyone who is making drugs whether it's overseas or here in the US is up to making quality standards. They had trouble inspecting drugs overseas before. They get to go to these manufacturing facilities every 9 years! They visit the facilities here at home every 2 years. There was a law that was passed in 2012 that gives FDA new authority and new money so that they can catch the drugs through the federal police that are coming from overseas. The FDA has issued a statement regarding this matter. They said that "Due to the global nature of the prescription drug supply chain, product safety and quality no longer begin or end at our border,"

Dr. Oz gave the audiences tips on how to avoid buying counterfeit drugs.

1. By from online pharmacies that are based in the US. The medicines should carry a sign called VIPPS, which is run by National Association Boards of Pharmacy. If it has a VIPPS seal, then it means that the online pharmacy is based in the US.

2. Don't answer or reply to spam mail that sells drugs.

3. If you call the number of the online pharmacy and have no one to talk to, then consider that as a red flag. Don't buy from the pharmacy if you have no one to talk to because most of the worst products come from these illegitimate online pharmacies.

4. If you buy drugs from an unregulated online source, be careful. Because the prices of the drugs are too good to be true and require no prescription.

5. Trust your gut. If the drug looks funny or smells bad, talk to your doctor.

6. If you get a prescription, take a pill from the new batch of medicines and compare it to a pill from the old batch. Make sure they are identical not only similar. Make sure your body reacts the same way when you took the new pill.

We have to be vigilant in buying drugs that are sold at a cheaper price. These counterfeit drugs may do more harm than good. Instead of helping the patient ward off the disease, the drugs make matters worse because they are fake. Don't be duped by illegitimate online pharmacies. It is better to get a prescription and talk to your doctor before consuming any pill.


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