Medicines have become a essential part of life just the way food and water are. When the health condition becomes uncomfortable or when enough antibodies are not produced by the body, then medicine is the first thing we reach for to get the situation under control and to 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 in the proper manner from the diet schedule that we follow. Medicines act as a supplement and life line too. But unfortunately, there are times when medicine backfires and worsen 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 with certain ingredient present in the drugs, etc.
Whatsoever the reasons would be, most dangerous one is consumption of fake medicines. Consumption of fake medicines do not only worsen the present condition but can also cause imbalance in the overall functioning of the body. The imbalance caused can be too severe sometimes that it can lead to organ failure and death eventually.
What are fake medicines?
According to World Health Organization (WHO) fake or counterfeit medicine is defined as “medicine which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabeled with respect to identity and/ or source. This applies to packaging or any other information on the packaging or labeling. Counterfeiting can be applied to both branded as well as 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 fake medicines are categorized?
- Fake medicines can be categorized as follow:
- Defective drugs: These drugs are produced legally by contain some manufacturing defects.
- Sub-standard drugs: These drugs are genuine and manufactured by authorized brands but do not fulfil the specifications and quality standards as per the requirement.
What type of drugs can be identified as fake?
According to report published in 2012, 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 fake medicines include antibiotics, TB medications, ARVs used against HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), anti-inflammatory medicines, analgesics and blood products.
These medicines pose severe risk to the public health.
How fake medicines harm health of an individual?
Fake medicines are real threat and harm an individual than curing the disease. Usually, these medicines contain five types of compounds and these are found to be dangerous to human health.
The compounds present in the medicines are listed below:
Common household dust (paint, brick powder, wood wax, etc.) : These materials are used to enhance the appearance of the fake medicines. Using these compounds can harm the health in severe manners including vertigo, vomiting which may lead to death of an individual.
Heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, etc.): According to Korean report published in 2011, 26% of medicines purchased from illegal online pharmacies contain ingredients which are toxic and carcinogenic in nature. These elements can damage central nervous system, liver and kidney.
Wrong and undesirable active salts (haloperidol, silbutramine, etc.): Use of wrong salts put the life of patient at risk by worsening the health condition. The severity of effects caused by these fake medicines depends on the dosage of the medicine being consumed. Some of the common undesired effects produced include muscle spasm, hypertension, difficulty breathing, strokes, etc.
Real Poisons (boric acid, rat race, antifreeze, etc.): Shockingly, there are pharmaceuticals which deliberately use poison as ingredients in the medicine. These ingredients effect severely as they are toxic for kidneys and causes renal concerns as well as developmental abnormalities.
According to news in 2009, 84 children died in Nigeria due to consumption of cough syrup. Later, it was found out that the syrup contained antifreeze.
Absence of active ingredients: There are fake medicines which do not contain even a bit of active ingredient whatever is mentioned on the package. Using such medicines not only prevent patient from getting better but divert effective therapies from showing improvement. They also delay the waiting hour before proper treatment can be provided, which is required on urgent basis.
These medicines are also considered as fake medicines and can cause damage on the same level as those containing poisons and other dangerous compounds. Uses of substandard active ingredient in certain cases can be harmful.
How to avoid fake medicines?
A fake medicine usually look alike the genuine ones. Hence, the certain way to identify the fake medicine is to perform a chemical test in a laboratory. Other than that, there are several signs which can help an individual to differentiate between a fake and an original medicine. 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, avil, paracetamol, etc. have higher chance of being sold as fake. Hence, it is suggested to buy from a reputed drug store.
Being aware and alert while having a medicine are another tips which can save you from huge health threat.