How to Avoid Buying Fake Drugs Online
How to Avoid Buying Fake Drugs Online
Counterfeit drugs are medications that are made with inactive, incorrect, or harmful ingredients. Counterfeit drugs are packaged and labeled to resemble genuine brand-name or generic drugs. This deceptive packaging is designed to trick you into thinking you’re purchasing a legitimate product.
Risks of Taking Counterfeit Drugs
If you use a counterfeit drug you may be at risk for serious health problems, including unexpected side effects, allergic reactions, or a worsening of your health condition. These can occur because a counterfeit drug may:
- harmful substances contaminates its
- contain the wrong active ingredient, which may not treat your condition or may cause unwanted side effects
- have too little or none of the active ingredient, which will be insufficient to treat your condition
- have too much of the active ingredient, which can cause unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects
- Package in phony wrapping, which may have incorrect directions on how to use the medication
What Counterfeit Drugs Look Like
A counterfeit drug may look like the genuine version of the medication. Unfortunately, the only way to know if it is counterfeit is by performing a chemical analysis in a laboratory. However, there are some signs that may indicate your medication is counterfeit. For example, counterfeit pills may:
- have a strange smell, taste or color
- broke apart very easily or cracks or chips
- be in poor quality packages with misspelled labels, or labels that have directions that seem incorrect
- cost very little, especially compared with the normal price of that particular drug
What to Do If You Suspect You Have a Counterfeit Drug
If you are concerned that you have a counterfeit drug, do not take it. Show the medication to your pharmacist; the professional who is the most familiar with how the medication and its packaging should look.
Your pharmacist will know if the manufacturer of your medication recently changed the appearance, flavor, or packaging of the drug. Additionally, if your pharmacy has changed from one generic drug manufacturer to another generic drug manufacturer, then the color or shape of your medication may be different. In this event, your pharmacist can verify that your medication is not counterfeit and can explain the change.
Where Counterfeit Drugs Come From
The World Health Organization estimates counterfeit medications make up as much as 30% of the pharmaceutical market in parts of Asia, Latin America, and Africa.1
According to the FDA, drug counterfeiting occurs less frequently in the U.S. than in other countries because of regulations that govern the production, prescribing, and sales of medications, and the strict enforcement against violators.
In the U.S., the purchase of medications from fraudulent online pharmacies is the major source of counterfeits. Counterfeit drugs also enter the U.S. through smuggling. It enters into the country by travelers who purchase the medication while on vacation or business trips.
How to Avoid Counterfeit Medications
There are several things you can do to protect yourself from the risks associated with counterfeit drugs, including:
- Purchase your prescription medications from licensed drugstores in the U.S. Although possible, it is rare to purchase drugs at a reputable pharmacy in the U.S. to be counterfeit.
- Be very careful when buying medications on the Internet. If you choose to buy medications online, look for websites that have the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal. These are licensed pharmacies where FDA-approved medications can be purchased safely. Eighty online pharmacies carry the VIPPS seal.
- Know your medication. When you receive your medication, pay attention to the packaging, directions on how you should take it, and the appearance of the drug itself. Do not take the medication if you have any concerns.
- You also need to protect yourself from counterfeit drugs while traveling. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you bring with you all the drugs that you think you will need during your trip, rather than buying them while you are traveling.
However, if you must buy drugs during your trip, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of buying counterfeit drugs:
- Bring a copy of your prescriptions, including the brand name or generic name and the manufacturer of any medicine that you take regularly or for a drug that has been prescribed for your trip.
- Buy medications only from licensed pharmacies and get a receipt. Do not buy drugs from open markets.
Check with the pharmacist in the foreign drugstore whether the drug has the same active ingredient as the one that you were taking.
- Make sure that the medication is in its original packaging.
If you are in a developing country and are concerned about the regulation of medications, check with the U.S. Embassy to see if they can recommend a safe place to purchase medications.