Fake medicine poses real health threat

Ever thought about buying medicine online? Think again. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), up to 50% of medicines bought online from websites that conceal their physical address are counterfeit.

“Counterfeit medicines are a growing problem in many countries and are increasingly being supplied over the internet.  As well as being deliberately fraudulent, there is the potential for harm with counterfeit medicines especially if treatment failure occurs.”  Medsafe

While New Zealand’s Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority reports that there have been no official cases of counterfeit medicines entering the legitimate distribution chain in New Zealand, there are anecdotal reports of counterfeits appearing amongst medicines being imported for personal use by consumers.

Across the ditch in Australia, customs officers were historically seizing approximately 260 parcels of drugs that breached the Therapeutic Goods Act each year. Since 2012 though, that number has spiked to more than 700 as Australians increasingly jump online to purchase a “cure” for a myriad of ailments.

Worldwide, there are estimates that up to 15% of worldwide pharmaceutical supplies could be counterfeit. According to WHO, this percentage jumps to 30% in developing countries.

 So what could be in these fake medicines?

According to global campaign, Fight the Fakes,  some poisons that have been discovered in fake medicines include mercury, rat poison, boric acid, paint and antifreeze. Nice!

As well as harmful ingredients, patients should also be aware of useless ingredients –as in, the pharmaceutical benefits of fake medicine may be nil. Or to put a human face on the issue, consider just one illness: malaria. According to Fight the Fakes, up to 20% of malaria deaths worldwide – or the death of 200,000 people – can be attributed to fake medicine.

The safest option? A prescription written by your general practitioner, filled at your local pharmacy.

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