BUYING ADVICE FOR MEDICINES: RAISING AWARENESS ABOUT COUNTERFEIT MEDICINES

December 13, 2019


Buying Advice For Medicines Raising Awareness About Counterfeit Medicines Min

In the age of online shopping, getting access to all kinds of goods has become easy and quick, including medicines. While the convenience and the range of choices are good for the consumer, some items like medicines and health-related goods may need the guidance, advice and prescription of a medical professional.


In addition, the problem of genuineness has become a concern given the proliferation of fake or counterfeit medicines that have flooded the global market. The impact has already been called a “public health threat”[1] in the face of widespread accessibility, without proper controls, regulation or information.


At present, most counterfeit medicines are purchased through unauthorized channels, especially the online pharmacies.[2] To enhance acceptability and credibility, the internet pharmacies even adopt certain nationalities, in many cases, identifying themselves as Canadian.[3]


The INTERPOL raises alarm signals on fake medicines as these may be “counterfeit, contaminated or mislabeled”.[4] The range of products that are affected include life-saving medicines, lifestyle medicines and medical devices.


Interpol gives this advice on spotting fake medical products: look out for the SIX Ps.[5]

  • Place: verify the store, website or marketplace as a licensed and accredited supplier or source of medicines
  • Prescriptions: medicines should be prescribed by healthcare professional. If source or site disregards this rule, think twice
  • Promises: if it’s too good to be true, be wary
  • Price: cheaper medicines should trigger warning bells
  • Privacy: lack of information on the site or source makes it suspicious
  • Product: compare products, to verify ingredients and effects


Accessibility, convenience, affordability, all these reasons make it more attractive to buy online or from outside the regular purchase outlets. Resources for many needs are not unlimited, and these factors make it more sensible to find alternative ways to purchase medicines.


On the other end of the argument, being able to access and procure any kind of medicine, especially prescription drugs, may be detrimental to overall public health standards. There are some basic reasons to consider when buying online or without a prescription, one of which is the real possibility of getting fake or counterfeit drugs, which do not have the necessary efficacy to address the medical problem it is intended for.


Here are tips and good advice to keep in mind when buying medicines.[6]

  • Choose a reputable pharmacy or drug store to ensure that the products are genuine and untampered.
  • Medicines are best prescribed by a doctor or medical professional, to ensure suitability and avoid side effects or health risks.
  • Medicines are not consumer goods. For your health concerns, a professional opinion is recommended before buying any medication.
  • Verify the status of online pharmacists or stores.


[1] Yakugaku, Z. [2014]. Counterfeit medicines—Japan and the world. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24492225

[2] Yakugaku, Z. [2014]. Counterfeit medicines—Japan and the world. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24492225

[3] Blackstone, E., Fuhr, J., Pociask, S. [2014, June]. The Health and Economic Effects of Counterfeit Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105729/

[4] Interpol. [n.d.] Fake medicines. Retrieved from https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Illicit-goods/Shop-safely/Fake-medicines

[5] Interpol. [n.d.] Fake medicines. Retrieved from https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Illicit-goods/Shop-safely/Fake-medicines

[6] NHS.uk. [2018, April]. Dangers of Buying Medicine Online. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/pharmacies/dangers-of-buying-medicines-online/