The issue of fake drugs has been a global health challenge for a long time.
Fake drugs can be found in illegal street markets, via unregulated websites through to pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals. According to WHO, an estimated 1 in 10 medical products in low and middle-income countries is substandard or falsified.
- Fake drugs are deceitful, illegal and dangerous.
- Fake drugs put patients at risk of further illness, disability or even death.
- Fake drugs harm, not heal.
- Fake drugs put the health of whole communities in danger by exposing them to greater drug resistance.
In this article, I present to you 5 simple ways to reduce the possibility of buying fake drugs.
For the sake of clarity, in the context of this write-up, I use the term fake drugs as an encompassing word for counterfeit, falsified, substandard and even expired medicines.
Counterfeits are drugs that have been falsely labeled regarding their identity and/or origin to deliberately fool consumers.
Strictly speaking, expired medicines are not fake drugs in terms of definition. But I included them because like counterfeit or substandard drugs, people are sometimes deceived to buying expired medicines because the seller doesn’t want to incur some loss. And this illegal act endangers the life of the users.
Here are 5 simple ways to limit your chances of buying fake drugs
1. Purchase your drugs from a registered pharmacy. Not from drug hawkers on the street or inside a bus. If you are in a rural area, get your medicines from a registered patent medicines vendor. But if there’s a pharmacy in that area, ensure you get all your medicines from the pharmacy, no matter the distance it would take.
2. Whenever you visit a pharmacy or hospital, make sure a pharmacist verifies every drug you go away with.
Even if you come to buy an OTC medicine or supplement and you are attended to by a sales personnel, take whatever you are given to the pharmacist. Let the pharmacist verify it before you leave the premises.
3. Always check the label of your medicines. On the label, check for the name and expiry date of the medicines. Don’t buy expired drugs. Examine if the details on the outer package are the same as those on the inner package or leaflets.
If the tablets or capsules are not properly packaged and labeled with the necessary information, don’t collect them even if you are in a hospital or pharmacy. It is your right to know whatever drugs you are given.
4. Inspect the package if the medicine is registered and approved for safety, quality, and effectiveness.
In Nigeria, this means checking for NAFDAC number. In Australia, this means checking for AUST R or AUST L number. In South Africa, this means checking if it’s registered by the MCC or SAHPRA.
5. Lastly, before using a drug check if there’s anything unusual about it.
For instance, are there spelling or grammatical errors on the package? Are the tablets broken? Do the syrups or suspensions have different colors? Are there contaminants such as dirt or hair strands on the drugs? After shaking the suspension several times, did the solid particles remain stuck at the bottom? Is the protective seal open? If it’s a medicine you use on a regular basis, is there anything strange about the color, taste, smell, or package?
If there’s something strange about your medicine, don’t use it.
Now imagine that every drug you use is obtained from a registered pharmacy or hospital and was verified by a pharmacist; and before leaving the premises you scrutinized the label to ensure it was registered and unexpired; and you examined the package and the drug itself (tablets, capsules or syrups) to see if there’s anything unusual about it.
You would have greatly minimized the possibility of buying a fake drug.
The World Health Organization, pharmaceutical industries, and national drug regulatory agencies are doing a lot to fight fake drugs. Let’s also be alert and take conscious steps in the fight of fake medical products.
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