Medicines have become an essential part of life, just the way food and water are. When the health condition becomes uncomfortable, or the body does not produce enough antibodies, medicine is the first thing we do to get the situation under control and treat the ailment. Not just that, medicine has become the source of necessary minerals and vitamins as well.
Medicine has become an alternative to minerals and vitamins in the right proportion, which our body does not get properly from the diet schedule that we follow. Drugs act as a supplement and lifeline, too. Unfortunately, there are times when treatment backfires and worsens the condition.
There are several reasons for the undesirable effects, such as exceeding the limited period of consumption, interaction with ongoing drugs, intake of wrong medicine, allergy to certain ingredients present in the drugs, etc.
Whatever the reasons would be, the most dangerous one is the consumption of fake medicines. Consumption of counterfeit drugs worsens the present condition and can also cause an imbalance in the overall functioning of the body. The imbalance caused can be so severe that it can lead to organ failure and death eventually.
What are fake medicines?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), fake or counterfeit medicine is “deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled concerning the identity and source. This applies to packaging or any other information on the packaging or labeling. Counterfeiting can be applied to both branded and generic products, which may include products with the correct ingredients or with wrong ingredients, without ingredients, with insufficient active ingredients, or with fake packaging.”
How are fake medicines categorized?
- Fake medicines can be categorized as follows:
- Defective drugs: These drugs are produced legally and contain some manufacturing defects.
- Sub-standard drugs: These drugs are genuine and manufactured by authorized brands but do not fulfill the specifications and quality standards as per the requirement.
What type of drugs can be identified as fake?
According to a report published in 2012, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) estimated that 523 drugs in total were found to be fake.
There is no proper category of fake medicines; however, widely found counterfeit drugs include antibiotics, TB medications, ARVs used against HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, and blood products.
These medicines pose a severe risk to public health.
How do fake medicines harm the health of an individual?
Fake medicines are a real threat and harm an individual more than cure the disease. Usually, these medicines contain five compounds that are dangerous to human health.
The compounds present in the medicines are listed below:
Common household dust (paint, brick powder, wood wax, etc.): These materials enhance medicines’ appearances. Using these compounds can harm health in severe manners, including vertigo and vomiting, which may lead to an individual’s death.
Heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, etc.): According to a Korean report published in 2011, 26% of medicines purchased from illegal online pharmacies contain toxicosis carcinogen ingredients nurture. These elements can damage the central nervous system, liver, and kidney.
Wrong and undesirable active salts (haloperidol, sibutramine, etc.): The use of bad salts puts the patient’s life at risk by worsening the health condition. The severity of the effects caused by these fake medicines depends on the dosage of the drug being consumed. Some of the common undesired effects produced include muscle spasms, hypertension, difficulty breathing, strokes, etc.
Real Poisons (boric acid, rat race, antifreeze, etc.): Shockingly, some pharmaceuticals deliberately use poison as ingredients in the medicine. These ingredients affect severely as they are toxic to kidneys and cause renal concerns and developmental abnormalities.
According to the news, in 2009, 84 children died in Nigeria due to cough syrup consumption. Later, it was found out that the syrup contained antifreeze.
Absence of active ingredients: There are fake medicines that do not contain even a bit of active ingredient, whatever is mentioned on the package. Using such drugs not only prevents the patient from getting better but diverts effective therapies from showing improvement. They also delay the waiting hour before proper treatment can be provided, required on an urgent basis.
These medicines are also considered fake medicines and can cause damage on the same level as those containing poisons and other dangerous compounds. Use of substandard active ingredients in certain cases can be harmful.
How do you avoid fake medicines?
A fake medicine usually looks like a genuine one. Hence, a way to identify phony treatment is to perform a chemical test in a laboratory. Other than that, several signs can help individuals differentiate between fake and original treatment. Some of the features which should be noticed are mentioned below:
- Easy to break apart, chip, or crack
- Strange smell, color, or taste
- Poor packaging quality, misspelled labels, or incorrect directions.
- Lower price when compared to the original one.
The medicines used as over-the-counter medicines, such as, evil, paracetamol, etc., have a higher chance of being sold as fake. Hence, it is suggested to buy from a reputed drugstore.
Being aware and alert while taking medicine are other tips that can save you from huge health threats.