FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Counterfeit Medicine?
Counterfeit medicines are fake or unauthorized medicines. They may:
- Be contaminated
- Contain the wrong active pharmaceutical ingredients or chemicals
- Be made with the wrong amount of ingredients (too much or too little)
- Contain no active ingredients at all
- Be different in taste, consistency, appearance or have a different bodily reaction when consumed
- Be packed in false packaging
- Not registered with the Ministry of Health
What do you mean by active pharmaceutical ingredients?
Active pharmaceutical ingredients are the chemical formula that makes authentic medicines work.
How can these active pharmaceutical ingredients be harmful?
Some counterfeit products contain incorrect dosages of active pharmaceutical ingredients which can cause great harm to your health. Other counterfeit products contain impurities which are like ‘poison’ to the body.
Why does counterfeit medicines pose a health risk to me and my family?
Counterfeit medicines pose significant health risks as key ingredients may be absent, diluted or poisonous. These substances can make counterfeit medications worse than useless in treating illnesses, as some can actually be hazardous to the user’s health.
How can I tell if I have unknowingly consumed counterfeit medicine?
Patients may experience unexpected side effects, allergic reactions or worsening of their medical condition.
Why is counterfeit medicines dangerous?
A great number of counterfeit medicines seized by the Ministry of Health Malaysia were found to be mixed or adulterated with other active ingredients such as listed poisons, steroids and some even include poisonous and harmful toxins1.
What does ‘adulterated’ mean?
‘Adulterated’ means that the original product has been added or mixed with another inferior substance and/or unapproved substances, thus making it poorer in quality and its effects on one’s health is unknown.
I have an embarrassing medical problem and believe that herbal medicines can solve my problem. So why should I see a doctor?
Many men and women who suffer from problems especially pertaining to sexuality are generally too embarrassed to discuss it with their doctors. Often these conditions are almost always treatable. Furthermore it is advisable to obtain proper medical treatment to minimize any long-term effects.
Many of my friends have advised me to buy special herbal potions and pills from the street peddlers and traditional medicine shops. Should I listen to them?
If one were to purchase medicines from street peddlers or from traditional medicine shops, there is no absolute guarantee that the medicine is not counterfeit or adulterated.
Why do people continue to purchase medicines from unofficial sources despite being cautioned not to do so?
Often people believe that it is cheaper and more convenient to purchase from unofficial sources. Also people who are seeking treatments for sexual issues often prefer sources that do not require them to have face to face consultation. We encourage people to seek official channels and speak to their doctors and pharmacists to understand their conditions better. It is important to be alert as products from unofficial sources do not go through strict regulatory processes.
How can I tell if I’ve purchased counterfeit medicine?
- You may not know that the medicines you’ve purchased are counterfeits. That’s why it’s important to purchase medicines from a licensed and trusted pharmacy and healthcare professionals only.
- You must be vigilant when examining your personal medications and pay attention to the presence of unsealed containers or changes in the packaging of the products.
- Difference in the physical appearance of the medications, taste and side effects experienced are some of the possible signs that you may have purchased counterfeit medicines.
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you notice anything unusual about the medication you are taking. Give them a complete list of all the medicines that you consume. Don’t forget to mention any dietary supplements you consume, including vitamins and herbal supplements.
Why is consuming fake medicine dangerous?
Fake medicine may be contaminated or contain the wrong or no active ingredients that can be harmful to your health or condition2.
How do you avoid purchasing counterfeit medicines?
- Don’t buy from websites that sell prescription drugs without a prescription.
- Don’t buy from website that offer to prescribe a drug for the first time without a physical exam by your doctor.
- Don’t give any personal information – such as credit card information, medical or health history.
- Be wary of online consultations – unlicensed websites often offer this service to make them look professional and legal3.
- Buy from safe, reputable pharmacists, or obtain your treatments from a doctor. You may be confused about a current or new condition, or you may be embarrassed to discuss some issues with your doctor – it is important however that you should never attempt to treat your condition without first having a medical consultation.
What should I do if I believe I have received or taken counterfeit medicine?
First, talk to the pharmacists where you bought the medication or contact your healthcare professional for medical advice. Once your safety is assured, report the medication to the authorities with the help of your Health Care Professional – your report could help save the life of others4!
How do I determine that the medication I have purchased is not a fake?
Lookout for the various anti counterfeit strategies to help you determine the authenticity of your medication.
- Security Seals
- Colour Shifting Ink Logo
- Radio Frequency Identification
- Tablet Coating
- Chemical Markers and Micro-texts
- Encrypted Serialization
- Electronic Patient Verification5
- The Star Online. The Counterfeit Menace. (Jan 2015) Available at: https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/health/2015/01/04/the-counterfeit-menace/. Accessed on 20 March 2020
- US FDA. Counterfeit Medicine. (Sept 2019) Available at: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/buying-using-medicine-safely/counterfeit-medicine. Accessed on 20 March 2020
- US FDA. The Possible Dangers of Buying Medicines Over the Internet. (Jan 2018) Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048396.htm#HowToProtectYourself. Accessed on 20 March 2020
- US FDA. What Should I do if I Believe I Have Received or Taken Counterfeit Medicine? (Feb 2016) Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/CounterfeitMedicine/ucm235435.htm. Accessed on 20 March 2020
- Bansal et. Al, Anti-Counterfeit Technologies: A Pharmaceutical Industry Perspective. Sci Pharm. 2013, 81(1): 1-13.