What Do You Know About Fake Drugs?

Those who engage in the manufacture and sale of counterfeit drugs pose a grave threat to all Nigerians and to people everywhere. It is estimated that more than 10 percent of all pharmaceuticals in the overall global supply chain are counterfeit drugs.

In fact, in some countries, fake pharmaceuticals account for 70 percent of all the drugs that are sold. The attraction to the sale of fake drugs is money. It is estimated that the global counterfeit industry is worth over $320 billion.

While it is true that the counterfeit drugs that are sold may be cheaper and more easily available than those from legitimate companies, they still reflect a high profit margin.

Since they don’t pay taxes or registration fees that other legitimate drug manufacturers pay, that makes the counterfeit drug trade especially lucrative.

Additionally, because the markup on counterfeit drugs is so high, they have become attractive to organized crime groups. Criminals generally prefer to mimic branded drugs, which are known for their high quality but are expensive, since the profits are so much greater than for low-cost drugs, where the markup would be less.

Some criminals are attracted to the manufacture and sale of counterfeit drugs because the penalties are less severe than for other types of crime.

Some gangs and organized crime groups involved in the trafficking and distribution of counterfeit drugs use their profits to finance other illegal activities, including terrorism.

Drug counterfeiting generally thrives in situations where access may be limited and the prices are high.

What many people have not come to appreciate is that fake drugs kill more than 10,000 Africans every year while creating 2 to 5 percent tax losses for governments around the world.

Sadly, counterfeit medicines are deliberately and we might add, fraudulently manufactured to be mistaken and consumed for legitimate drugs.

Not only are counterfeit drugs widespread in Nigeria, but they are very dangerous. Interestingly, one recent article in a medical journal likened the counterfeiting of drugs to murder.

Counterfeit drugs are a serious threat to humanity because people die by taking diluted drugs, drugs with fake ingredients, or legitimate drugs that are repackaged after their expiration date with fake labeling that indicates they are still useful.
Counterfeit drugs can cause the following threats to health:

  • Toxic effects: The counterfeit drugs contain ingredients that, if ingested or injected, can cause health problems.
  • Unintended effects: Some counterfeits are presented as substitutes for other drugs. For example, counterfeiters recently emptied bottles of the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa and filled the bottles with aspirin. The drugs had no therapeutic value.
  • Ineffective treatments: Some fake drugs contain some active ingredient, but are sub-potent. Sub-potent drugs are especially dangerous in the treatment of illnesses like HIV and malaria.
  • No active ingredients. Some drugs are just chalk or water. A counterfeit version of Serostim, a growth hormone used to treat AIDS patients, was found to have no active ingredient.

Officials in Nigeria state that most of the fake drugs that flood the country are from China and India. Unlike India, China not helping Nigeria stop fake drugs. (New York Daily News, May 15, 2013).

Generally, developing countries like Nigeria are the best destination of counterfeit drugs because regulation and supervision are not as strict as in developed countries. That is the main reason why counterfeit drugs are a huge problem in Third World countries, especially in Africa.

The use of fake HIV drugs have resulted in deaths of many people in Africa. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 malaria deaths in Africa may have resulted from the use of sub-potent anti-malarials.

While counterfeit drugs are a growing problem, there are ways to detect them and keep from suffering their ill effects—or being swindled out of your money.

  • If it is not over the counter medicine, use only drugs that have been prescribed by a physician after a physical examination. Make sure that you obtain your prescription only at a legitimate NAFDAC approved pharmacy.
  • Don’t buy drugs from street vendors or unlicensed pharmacies.
  • Don’t buy drugs from other countries. Not only is it illegal, but it could harm your health.
  • Don’t buy medicine that the packaging does not have legitimate street address of the manufacturer.

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