Counterfeit medicines are everywhere, especially online. It’s a US$75 billion per year industry and the FDA has had enough of this: it is taking action. The manufacturers and sellers of these medicines are there to make money and they do not care about your health. Those medicines may be too weak or too strong or may contain harmful substances or they may contain a completely different active ingredient. It is therefore very important to be very careful when purchasing medicines online. As a consumer you do not have the knowledge and equipment to test drugs in a laboratory. Here are the tips to identify fake medicines, before ordering your next medicine for home delivery.
1. Visual Scrutiny
Scrutinizing the package and its contents before purchase or use is the first step recommended by the World Health Organisation in 1999.
Examine the package to determine if it is different from the package that you are familiar with in terms of print colour, fonts, font sizes and spelling errors. Check also if the security seal has been fiddled with. Then compare the primary and secondary packaging. Is the information on the primary and secondary packages legible? Does the manufacturer’s address, batch number and the expiry date on the secondary package match the one on the primary package? Double-check the manufacturer’s address online. Is it the same as the one on the packaging?
Next, inspect the product for lack of colour, shape and size uniformity. Look at the bottom of the package. Is there excessive powder or pieces of tablets there? Are there any cracks or chips in the tablets? Is there any discolouration, mottling, swelling and fusion of tablets? Look to see if there are crystals on the walls of the containers. If the medicine is in the form of capsules, look for cracking, softening, swelling, mottling or discolouration of the capsule shell. Also read the dosage and other information on the leaflet to see if it matches the one that you are used to taking.
2. SMS Verification
The logo, the labelling and the packaging may all look right. The tablets may be the right colour, size and shape. How can you be sure the medicine is the real thing? Mobile Authentication Services (MAS) is available for consumers to find out if a drug is genuine. Some drugs come with a scratch card placed on the package which reveals codes when scratched. Send the code by SMS for free to a designated number such as 1393 (Goldkeys) and 38351 (Pharmasecure). Within seconds you will receive a reply that says the drug is genuine or fake.
3. Source of the Medicine
Where you buy medicines matters. If you take your prescription to a reputable pharmacy you will most likely get genuine drugs but if you buy from illiterate and unqualified vendors on the street you are likely to buy fake drugs.
If you have been buying a drug regularly you know the price already. So, if you find a vendor charging far less than expected, watch out. However, if it is a generic option then it makes sense for the price to be lower than the brand name.
5. Unexpected Side Effects
If you have been taking a certain drug regularly then you probably know how your body reacts. But, if you get unusual side effects or you feel worse or you have an allergic reaction, stop the medicine immediately. It is fake. Do not buy from that vendor again.
Drugs create changes in the body. An illegal drug may have adverse effects and may result in serious illness or death. That is why we all have to be careful where we buy them. There are well known online pharmacies who are registered according to the laws of India and are run by professional pharmacists. A good online pharmacy should care about its customers, for example PharmEasy connects you to registered local pharmacies to deliver medicines for free to over 1,000 cities and towns in India. If you want to buy online for convenience and affordability, make sure they are registered with government. Whichever option you choose, keep these points in mind when making a decision. Always consult with your Doctor and avoid self-medicating.