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                                                      How to identify fake medicines

Q: How can I identify a original medicine?
Krishna : This is a very important Q. Lots of people suffer because of fake medicines. Some even lose their lives  if counterfeit medicines are consumed unintentionally .

It is a controversial world!

A drug that is subjected to thorough clinical analysis is supposed to be genuine. Evidence based medicines are good ones.

However, even clinical trials are getting manipulated these days. Therefore, well established drugs can be treated as good ones because the evidence comes from not only labs but also from hospitals.

Most alternative medicines (ayurveda, unani) are not tested scientifically. Even the results of the ones that are ‘tested’ are being published in fake journals. Therefore, you cannot trust them fully. Homeopathy doesn’t work at all. This is a scientific fact!

If you want to differentiate original drugs from fake ones, WHO says you have to check these things …

1. Inspect the package carefully. If you find any differences from the earlier ones, you can question the seller.
2. Check the security seal. If it is broken or damaged, reject to buy it.
3. Look for spelling differences, colour, font differences of the print, refuse to accept it, if there are any.
4. Check for chemical ingredients. If the formula is different, reject it.
5. Check the information, brand name etc. If you find anything different, reject it.
6. Check if the batch number, expiry date and manufacturer’s address on the secondary package are the same with that on the primary package.
7. See whether the manufacturer’s address can be traceable or not. If the address if incomplete, reject it.
8. Check for registration number. If you think it is tampered with, reject it.
9. Check for differences in the physical appearance (colour uniformity, size, shape, consistency etc.) of the drug ( excessive powder and/or pieces of tablets at the bottom of the container (from abraded, crushed or broken tablets, cracks or chips in the tablets, swelling, mottling, discolouration, fusion of tablets; appearance of crystal on the walls of the container or on the tablet. hardening or softening, cracking, swelling, mottling or discolouration of capsule shell should also be looked out for).
10. Mobile Authentication Service (MAS)can also be used to curb the menace of fake drugs.MAS involves the packaging of drugs with scratch card placed on the package from the point of manufacture. When scratched, the revealed codes could be sent free of charge to 38353 (Sproxil), 38351 (Pharmasecure), 20966 (UBQ), 1393 (Goldkeys) etc., depending on the service the manufacturer chose. Shortly after, the sender receives a reply confirming whether the drug is genuine or fake.
11.You have to buy from only reputable pharmacies only. Never buy from from illiterate and unqualified vendors who hawk drugs in buses, motor parks and in the streets.
12. Don’t buy cheap products. If the price is far cheaper than what is expected, then you have to think twice. However, this may not always be true especially for some products like  Generic drugs .
13. Counterfeit drugs most of the time contains inert substances other than the appropriate Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API). They may also contain incorrect substances, improper dosage or hazardous substances which do no elicit therapeutic effect. Unusual side effects, allergic reactions, or a worsening of medical condition after taking a medication may be a pointer to identifying a fake drug. The medication should be stopped once any of the above is noticed.

Erhun W.O, Erhun M.O, Babalola O.O (2001) Drug Regulation and control in Nigeria: The challenge of counterfeit drugs. Journal of health and population in developing countries, 4 (2): 23-34.
Mark D. (2011). Pharmaceutical Anti-Counterfeiting: Combating the Real Danger from Fake Drugs. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Olike C. (2008).The Fight against Fake Drugs by NAFDAC in Nigeria. 44th International Course in Health Development (ICHD) September 24, 2007 – September 12, 2008 KIT (Royal Tropical Institute) Development Policy & Practice/Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

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