According to a research released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2017, an estimated 1 in 10 medical products circulating in low and middle-income countries, are either falsified or substandard. The bogus-drug trade is not only a nation’s problem but a danger to the whole of mankind.
Detecting substandard drugs is not an easy task. Some are entirely fake while some are potentially dead (does not produce a desired result or ineffective). Consumption of fake medicines can lead to consequences ranging from delayed treatment to dangerous side effects. Consumers do not have testing equipment at home, but there are ways by which counterfeit medicines can be identified and avoided.
- How to Identify Fake Medicines in India
- Risks Related to Fake Medicines:
- News on Fake Medicines:
How to Identify Fake Medicines in India
Fake medicines in India is a big problem. As pharmaceutical companies are highly profitable, many counterfeits are lured towards creating duplicate medicines, causing a threat to human lives. Checking a medicine for genuineness is not an easy task but can be done by following these tricks.
1) Check the Packaging:
This is the simplest and the easiest method to check the authenticity of medicines. Check the packaging for details like unusual fonts, print color, and spelling errors. Analyze whether it appears the same or different from the one you have used before.
2) No Breakage in the Seal:
The security seal (especially in bottled medicines) should not be damaged. Look for a crack or breaks in the sealing tape.
3) Check the Tablets/Dosage Form:
Look for dissimilarities in physical appearance of the drug like its color, size, uniformity, consistency, shape, etc.
4) Physical Attributes of Tablets:
As stated by World Health Organization, the common physical attributes that need to be looked out in medicine tablets are:
- Small pieces of tablets or excessive powder at the bottom of the medicine container.
- Cracks in the tablets.
- The appearance of crystal on the container walls or on the medicine tablets.
- Softening or hardening of the medicines.
- Swelling, spots or discoloration of the tablets.
5) Allergies / Unexpected Side Effects:
Most of the medicines have mild side effects. It is important to consult your doctor before the usage to keep a check on allergies arising from it. If you notice certain unexpected or harmful side effects from your medication, report to your doctor immediately.
If the price of the medicine is suddenly far cheaper than the usual rate, double check the product as there may be a chance that the fake companies wanted to lure customers by providing medicines at much cheaper rates.
7) Verify Medicines by Online or SMS:
PharmaSecure is working with manufacturers to protect against counterfeits. Unique Identification Code along with a barcode is printed on medicine packages or strips. Consumers can send the unique “Authentication code” by SMS to 9901099010 to receive an authentication message from the pharmaceutical manufacturer to confirm the authenticity of the drug being purchased.
- Go to PharmaSecure website.
- Select your country.
- Enter your Mobile Number and the “Authentication Code” printed on the medicine strips.
- Enter word verification and hit “VERIFY” button.
That is it… Once done, you will get an SMS with result.
- The Authentication code is different from the Batch Number.
- The Authentication code may not be available on all medicines, except for some expensive medicines.
The pharmaceutical industry is flooded with a plethora of medicine brands. Purchasing medicines from a reputable pharmacy or good medicine brands will greatly reduce your chances of buying fake drugs. Stop buying from unqualified and illiterate street Vendors.
9) Details on the Drug:
Match whether the Expiry date, Batch number and the address of the Manufacturer on the secondary package are same as that on the primary package. We can also check the medicine Batch Number online to verify its authenticity.
10) Verify Manufacturer’s Address:
To verify the manufacturer’s origin is simple and easy only when it comes from a reputable, international company that has a well-tracking system in place. But that’s often not the scenario as fake companies can’t get their exact address printed on the medicines. In that case, check if the manufacturer’s address is traceable, i.e. whether it contains the exact location of the company and not just the country’s name.
The risks related to fake medicines can cause several health consequences as:
- The quantity of the active ingredients in fake medicines may not be accurate.
- It may contain totally different active ingredients that may cause serious side effects.
- The process by which it is manufactured may not coincide with the Good Manufacturing Practice or not according to the policies of the Drugs Technical Advisory Board.
- It may contain toxic ingredients.
- It may have forged manufacturer’s data on the medicine package.
- It may not have been stored or transported properly.
There are thousands of fake medicines flooding in the market and the negative impacts of those fake medicines know no boundaries. They are harmful and poisonous and thus, specific care must be taken to avoid its usage. The tricks given above will not only reduce the chances of buying it but will also benefit our health. In this way, we can contribute to fighting against the black-market of counterfeit drugs.
News on Fake Medicines:
1. Pharmacy Raid: Fake Medicines and Escaped Owner
– 21st Sept 2018
Just as Medlife, launched its #FakeMattChuno campaign to create awareness about Fake Medicines and their rampant presence in the Indian market, a case from Bijnor was registered to highlight the same issue. The Food Safety and Drugs Authority (FSDA), formed a joint of officers from three different districts who have been held responsible for flushing out fake medicine vendors from their districts. It is because such raids that a chemist shop in Noorpur City, has incurred the wrath of the government for housing and selling fake medicines. The current goods sealed from the shop are worth INR 5 lakhs.
The owner of this chemist shop is said to be a licenced chemist who used his outfit to sell counterfeit medicines under the names of brands and companies that were not registered with the FSDA in the first place, additionally, the raiding officers also caught pharmaceutical company samples and other pilot test products that were being sold by the shop. The owner of the chemist shop in question is absconding and the police are still searching for him. The officers have also collected 10 probable samples that they are keen on testing to prove that the chemist was dabbling in the process of creating counterfeit medicines.
2. Poor Quality/Fake Medicines Prevalent in Third World Countries:
– 17th Aug 2018
A recent study conducted by researchers from University of North Carolina, revealed that markets in developing countries like India or Africa are worst hit with the presence of counterfeit or low quality medicines. While the world average of fake medicines is 13%, African countries report a presence of approximately 19% fake medicines. It is important to note that there are two types of fake medicines in the world:
i) Fake medicines which lie about their dosage, quality, method of preparation and raw materials used to prepare them.
ii) Substandard medicines, which are similar to normal medicines in every way but were not able to make the cut for usable medicines because of storage, preparation or timeline of expiration.
The study, examined around 96 previous studies to arrive at the conclusion that the most commonly affected medicines are antibiotics and antimalarial medicines, with nearly 12% antibiotic and 19% antimalarial medicines being fake or substandard. However, researchers have also asserted that this might not be Africa’s worst problem in healthcare.
3. GOI Bent On a Concrete Plan to Weed Out Fake Medicines:
– 26th July 2018
In May 2018, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board approved a “trace and track” proposal to weed out fake medicines. Following this move, office of India’s central drug regulator has moved on to form a working group which would be tasked with identifying the problem of fake medicines, their spread, transportation and presence in the market. This working group is also expected to brainstorm and find solutions to all such problems so that the program when implemented is highly successful. The working group is geared to make its presentation in October 2018.
The proposal approved by the board talked about unique 14 digit codes printed on the labels of medicines manufactured by the top 300 pharmaceutical brands. There will also be a central system, which would keep track of the numbers and will be able to update patients about the validity of the tracking numbers mentioned on the labels. All a patient has to do is type out the 14 digit unique ID code and send it to a centralized number, the systems would run a test and send an SMS back to the patient, informing him of the validity of the medicines.
In a meeting headed by the Drug Controller General of India, it was noted that the aim of this authentication program is to create a fear in the minds of those who produce counterfeit medicines. During the meeting it was also noted that this move will increase the workload of regulators. State run machineries have however, decided to let the manufacturers decide which organization(s) are they going to agree upon to be contracted with the task of creating a central intelligence system with the data and record for all drugs documented as well as generate unique serial numbers for them.
On the other hand, manufacturers have raised their concerns, the first being that putting a unique serial number on selected brands would increase their cost of production. This step does not bode well for MSMEs who have applied for subsidies already. The second concern raised by manufacturers is about the awareness and use of these codes. Some pharmaceutical companies who are already using this technology claim, that the use of such verification data in India is “very low”. The third major concern was raised by contract manufacturers who argue that the cost of serialisation would make their business unviable.
The working group is still formulating a policy, it remains to be seen how these concerns would be acknowledged and resolved.
4. Blockchain Technology Can Win War on Fake Medicines:
– 7th July 2018
Counterfeit medicines or fake medicines had created a multibillion-dollar problem worldwide, especially in underdeveloped countries where the Healthcare system is not advanced. These medicines are so identical that people usually confuse it with the real one. Despite several attempts to prevent pharma fraudulent activities, the authorities are unsuccessful due to large gaps in global pharmaceuticals supply chains.
Indian researchers have planned to bring Blockchain Technology in the healthcare system to prevent the supply and sale of counterfeit medicines by improving the supply chain security across the world. This technology will help in verifying what is delivered to whom and by whom, including the timing and location details within the pharma or healthcare supply chain.
Blockchain technology will work by using UIC (Unique Identification code) found in every drug produced in India. The details of all the places a drug is passed will be captured and tracked by using Blockchain. As this technology cannot be muted and manipulated, from manufacturing to shipping, every detail of the drug will be archived securely. To confirm the originality of the drug, buyers should scan the QR code printed on the drugs by their smartphone and verify the data. The National Institute of Transforming India or Niti Aayog supported by the Government of India is working on a blockchain technology Proof-Of-Concept (POC) to fight against fake medicines.
It is reported that Blockchain can be utilized for several other applications in the Healthcare system as it offers guarantee, integrity, and accuracy of the result. This technology will give information on any fraud of the medicines. The estimates suggest that there is a chance that 83% of pharmaceutical and life science officials will adopt this technology within 5 years with 68% votes that it will create the greatest secure system for medicines.