Falsified medicines are dangerous. Although often produced in filthy, unsafe conditions, they can look exactly like the real thing. But, importantly, they are NOT the real thing. Here are some common questions and answers.
Some people argue that, far from being dangerous, falsified medicines enable people to access medicine that they would not otherwise be able to, for example because of cost or availability. Those who make this argument assume two things. First, they assume that the fake is an exact copy of the real thing, that it has been produced in a hygienic manufacturing facility and has the correct ingredients. Second, they assume that it will not have any harmful ingredients.
Fake medicines are not a cheap alternative to the real thing. They are, instead, a dangerous, global healthcare crime. There is a very good chance that a fake will have been produced in filthy conditions. It may contain too little, none or too much of the active ingredient, and may also contain other substances which could be harmful or, indeed, fatal. Heavy metals, boric acid, lead-based paint, floor polish – all these and more have been found in fake medicines.
People assume that a fake medicine will be easy to identify. They think that if the fake is produced in conditions like those pictured above, it will obviously look like a cheap imitation. Many people think that the counterfeiter aims only to make a quick buck from a gullible buyer, who won’t spot that the medicine is fake until it is too late and the counterfeiter has moved on to his next victim. Would these same people believe that they would be able to tell a fake medicine from a genuine one? Why not take the test and see if you can tell which tablet is the genuine one and then, if you are really confident you’ve got it right, think how confident you’d be if your life depended on it.
The reality is that you would not be able to tell the difference. The counterfeiter is not here today and gone tomorrow. He isn’t trading on a street corner in a vacation resort. He is part of a highly sophisticated web of organised criminal networks, and these networks make an estimated 75 – 200 billion USD per annum globally. The counterfeiter’s biggest pay-off comes when his product looks so much like the real thing, that it is indistinguishable. When that is achieved, he can infiltrate legitimate supply chains as well as distributing widely via the internet to unsuspecting patients. And the one which is fake? Well, does it really matter? Buy a fake medicine and you are not getting a cheap imitation. you are endangering your life, without even knowing it.