Fake Medicines Taking Toll on Public Health

Fake Medicines Taking Toll on Public HealthFake Medicines Taking Toll on Public Health

Counterfeit medicines pose great risks not only to the national economy but more importantly to consumer health.

Reports suggest that the main consumers of counterfeit medicines in Iran are youth and women who are drawn to the medicines because of extensive advertisements on satellite TV channels (banned by the government) which introduce the drugs “as effective weight control medicines or remedies for low libido.” Some youths also consume energy boosting medicines when they join fitness gyms on the advice of trainers.

High profitability is the fundamental driver for counterfeit medicine. The considerable difference between the manufacturing costs of counterfeit products and the price conmen charge is a lucrative incentive. Pakistan, China and India are among major counterfeit medicine producing and trafficking countries. The counterfeit medicine is smuggled to Iran from Pakistan, Turkey, UAE, Syria or Iraq, Mehr News agency reports.

According to reports by the World Health Organization (WHO), globally around 200,000 people are victims of drug-related deaths every year. Another worrying development suggests that around 25% of the medicines sold worldwide “are not legitimate.”

 Online Market

The online marketplace for counterfeit medicines is becoming larger and more brazen with “more than 1000 internet websites active in sale and distribution of spurious medicines around the world,” according to a report by Iran’s cyber police. With lack of administrative vigilance and awareness among the people, the online market could soon be within reach of Iranian consumers.

Citing fitness medicines, nutritional supplements, ecstasies and Tramadol as the main counterfeit products in Iran, supervising director of Hamedan Medical University’s food and drug department , Dr. Marzie Mosaed says most of the counterfeit medicine includes those repacked and relabeled in neighboring countries with added adulterants and substituted ingredients. These are completely misrepresented or sold under a false brand name.

“Low-quality counterfeit medication may lead to several dangerous health consequences, including side effects or allergic reactions, in addition to their obvious inefficacy due to less or lack of active ingredients,” she observed.

 Huge Profits

Profits from the counterfeit medicine trade are largely unknown due to its illicit nature. But it is estimated that spurious drugs provide approximately $75 billion in revenue annually to illegal operators and have caused more than 100,000 deaths worldwide.

One expert estimates that counterfeit drugs fetch 10 times the profits compared to heroin trafficking. Also, the risk of being caught is lower since detection is difficult.

Head of Iranian Association of Pharmacists Seyed Hamid Khuei says sale of counterfeit medicines can be checked by advising people not to procure medicine outside the legal pharmaceutical network and by creating greater awareness. People should not lose faith in the legal brands of medication. Controlling counterfeit drugs is not an easy task, but it is a necessity given their tremendous impact on public health, which can harm or kill people.