Dangers of Counterfeit Medications and How to Avoid Them

Unfortunately, fake online pharmacies and pharmacy scams that sell counterfeit medications are growing problems. By dealing with unscrupulous pharmacies, consumers might believe they are getting a good deal and enjoying the convenience of online shopping, but could actually be putting their health in danger.

The Story Behind Pharmacies That Sell Counterfeit Medications

Most online pharmacy scams make claims that their medications are FDA-approved. But in fact they aren’t regulated by anyone. They may even go so far as to request a medical history and completion of a questionnaire for supposed review by a doctor, all of which appears legitimate.

They offer medications for sale without a prescription which is illegal. And speaking of legality, not only are consumers at risk health-wise, but their credit card information could be stolen by unscrupulous pharmacies as well.

Regulation of pharmaceutical companies is important with regard to drug manufacturing so manufacturers use safe ingredients at an acceptable level. A fake pharmacy could produce counterfeit medication in very unsanitary conditions, increasing the health risk to consumers. Even legitimate medications have been subject to contamination.

Common Types of Counterfeit Medications

There are counterfeits of brand name, generic, over-the-counter, and prescription medicines.

The most commonly counterfeited are sexual health medicines used to treat conditions such as: 

  • erectile dysfunction;
  • AIDS; and
  • HIV, according to a USA Today article from 2011 citing a WHO report.

Anti-infectives like antibiotics are another type of drug often counterfeited, according to the article; these are medications that help fight infection.

Central nervous system drugs – such as those that treat depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and pain – are even more examples of drugs counterfeited by untrustworthy pharmacies. 

Other types of counterfeit drugs may include: 

  • those aimed at treating cholesterol and blood pressure;
  • anti-psychotics;
  • diabetes medication;
  • malaria medication;
  • blood thinners;
  • cancer treatments; and
  • obesity-related drugs. 

Why Counterfeit Medications are Dangerous

According to a report from Pfizer, counterfeit pharmaceutical ingredients may contain dangerous ingredients like: 

  • heavy metals;
  • boric acid;
  • floor polish;
  • nickel;
  • arsenic;
  • brick dust; and
  • leaded highway paint. 

USA Today also notes that some contain innocuous ingredients that fail to treat the patient’s health problems such as: 

  • vitamins;
  • flour;
  • talcum powder;
  • sugar; or
  • chalk.

But even if a counterfeit medicine in fact does contain the same active ingredients as the real medication, it may contain the appropriate ingredients in dangerous quantities.

If the labeling isn’t correct this could be just as dangerous; for instance, taking a drug that has 10 mg of an active ingredient and selling it in a bottle where the label indicates the dosage is 40 mg. What might have been a treatable medical condition could get progressively worse because the counterfeit medicine fails to properly treat the patient’s condition. Meanwhile, too much of an active ingredient could create serious side effects.

Protect Yourself from Illness or Injury Related to Counterfeit Medication

Protect yourself by purchasing from a reputable pharmacy, one that is licensed and sells true FDA-approved drugs. If you decide to purchase over the Internet, John Clark, VP and Chief Security Officer at Pfizer Global Security, offers a few tips in an article for the Huffington Post.

Make sure the pharmaceutical company has received Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS®) accreditation from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). Consumers can verify a website’s authenticity through NABP’s AWARERx website. Keep in mind that counterfeit drugs aren’t always obviously so. They can look like the real deal.

Sometimes, though, the differences are obvious with regard to the pill: 

  • size;
  • color;
  • smell; or
  • taste.

If it’s ever a question, don’t take the risk. Of course, if you or someone you love suffers serious or fatal injuries because of a counterfeit medication, it might be possible to pursue legal action against the fake pharmacy. With a variety of complex issues and challenges in this type of case, it would be important to seek legal counsel.

An attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates can evaluate the circumstances to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward and what options might be available. Set up your consultation by filling out our contact form or call us at 800-550-0000.

Related Posts