What are the dangers of counterfeit drugs?
Counterfeit drugs are dangerous for a number of reasons, both for people who have been prescribed the drug and for those who may be abusing it. These are some of the reasons that counterfeit drugs are problematic:
Not enough of the active ingredient
Often, counterfeit medications do not have the right amount of the active ingredient necessary to treat a condition. Someone who needs a drug in order to survive may be given a counterfeit version, meaning they are not getting the right medication to treat their condition. This could lead to deterioration in health and even death. According to American Health and Drug Benefits, “In the case of the counterfeit drug that has no active ingredient, the drug fails to help the patient get better, which can ultimately harm the patient. In the case of antibiotics, for example, this can promote antibiotic resistance and the use of stronger antibiotics, because physicians would believe that the first-line drug was not working, not knowing that the patient had been taking a counterfeit drug.”
Counterfeit drugs are typically not manufactured correctly, leaving them susceptible to pesticides. According to the Huffington Post, “Unlike authentic medicines, which are manufactured with authentic pharmaceutical ingredients in clean facilities under highly regulated, quality-controlled processes, these fake medicines are typically made at unregulated sites under extremely unsanitary conditions and may contain dangerous substances like pesticides.”
Because those people making counterfeit drugs may not have access to the correct ingredients, the drugs may contain substances not intended to enter the human body, such as boric acid, lead paint, floor wax, and rat poison. These can be fatal when enough of the substance is consumed. In fact, the American Health and Drug Benefits states that as of 2012, more than 500 children around the world had died from counterfeit cough syrup that contained antifreeze.
What precautions can be taken to avoid counterfeit drugs?
Identifying a counterfeit drug can be difficult, as manufacturers have become talented at mimicking the appearance of the real drug. But there are a few precautions that can be taken to avoid taking counterfeit drugs.
- Avoid buying drugs from internet pharmacies. Many places that sell counterfeit drugs appear to have legitimate and professional websites. But lacking a physical address is a red flag. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of drugs sold through websites concealing their physical address are counterfeit.
- Do not take drugs you are not prescribed. A prescription is the safest way to be sure you are receiving the correct drug. If you are obtaining them illegally, you are more likely to buy counterfeits.
- If a medication has a different physical appearance than what you are used to taking, throw it out. This could mean it is a different size, color or even weight. Also, if it tastes differently or dissolves in a different manner than normal, this is a red flag as well.
- If you have been prescribed a drug and are wary of its legitimacy, bring it to your local pharmacy to have it checked.
- Report illegitimate online pharmacies by visiting this site.
The counterfeit drug industry is growing, meaning that precautions have to be taken. The more you educate yourself, the more likely you are to avoid counterfeit prescriptions.
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