Beware of Counterfeit Drugs and Fake Medications

The Voice of America reports that the global trade in counterfeit drugs has risen to $30 billion a year. According to the VOA, 40 percent of the drugs sold in some countries are of the counterfeit variety, and contribute to frequent treatment failure and loss of life.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.netIf that’s not sad enough, what about the news that many of those counterfeit drugs find their way into the US market? According to the Chicago Tribune, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confiscated millions of dollars in counterfeit and illegal medicine in recent years. The Tribune also reports that the FDA has worked with official agencies in many countries around the world to shut down thousands of foreign-based Internet pharmacies in order to help keep counterfeit drugs out of American hands.

Even so, the Tribune quotes FDA executive Ilisa Bernstein as saying, “This is a drop in the bucket. We don’t know how many websites are out there, but there are a lot more. We may have some impact on these 4,100 websites, but they can pop up days or weeks later using another URL and another way to deceive consumers.”

That, of course, suggests that keeping safe from counterfeit and potentially harmful drugs is ultimately the responsibility of the consumer. Yet many Americans seem all too willing to shop for drugs from shady online pharmacies—all for the sake of saving money.

But at what cost?

If an online pharmacy is willing to sell you medication when you don’t have a prescription, run.

Correction. Make that RUN.

It’s illegal to sell prescription drugs to people without prescriptions, yet many online pharmacies are more than willing to do just that. Such pharmacies are unlicensed, and you can bet they’re less interested in providing safe, legal drugs than in getting their hands on your personal and banking information.

If you choose to purchase prescription drugs online, make sure you’re dealing with a licensed pharmacy that requires a prescription for prescription drugs. According to Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, as reported in the Tribune, not one foreign pharmacy has met requirements for licensing in the US by following all state and federal laws and distributing only FDA-approved products.

That’s not to suggest only foreign companies are in the business of selling counterfeit drugs. Many counterfeit drug sellers are based in the United States, and may potentially put you at just as much risk as an unlicensed foreign pharmacy might do.

The best advice is to steer clear of all pharmacies selling drugs without a license, whether they’re based in the United States, Canada, or elsewhere.  If you’re attracted to an online or mail order pharmacy with a verifiable physical address in the US, you can easily learn whether it’s licensed by contacting the state board of pharmacy either in your state or in the state where the pharmacy is located.

If the pharmacy doesn’t have a physical address that you can confirm easily, the best advice again is … RUN.

There’s probably a good reason that pharmacy doesn’t want you to know exactly where it is. suggests taking the following steps in order to minimize the chances you’ll ever fall for a potentially harmful counterfeit drug scam:

  1. Know your medications. Contact your pharmacist or doctor if you notice anything different about a medication.
  2. Pay attention to packaging. Contact your pharmacist or doctor if you notice any changes.
  3. Only buy prescription medications from a safe, reputable source. You can call the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) at 847-698-6227 for help determining whether a pharmacy is licensed. You can also visit the NABP online. also suggests notifying the FDA if you suspect you’ve purchased a counterfeit drug. You can contact the FDA’s Medwatch Program at 1-800-332-1088 or online if you think you’ve been scammed.

There’s no good substitute for caution when it comes to purchasing any sort of medication online. The Tribune warns that counterfeit medicines “can deliver too little, too much or none of the active ingredient — or the wrong one — and sometimes are adulterated with dangerous chemicals or contaminated by unsanitary manufacturing or storage conditions.”

The BBC goes further, quoting a statement by Europol, the European law enforcement agency, following a crackdown earlier this year aimed at getting fake Viagra and other counterfeit drugs out of the European market. According to the report, “It is very common for counterfeit medication to contain no active ingredients and often they are made using ineffective or dangerous substances which can cause liver damage, irreversible health problems or even prove to be fatal.”

Don’t gamble with your health by purchasing potentially dangerous drugs from an unlicensed pharmacy. Give MedicareMall a call instead to learn how you can save money on your healthcare costs in a responsible manner.

What other tips do you have for staying safe from counterfeit drugs? Please leave a comment below.

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