Drugs: Protect Yourself from Fakes

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What are counterfeit drugs?
Counterfeit drugs are fake or copycat pharmaceutical drugs that are incorrectly labeled. Some may contain harmful, toxic substances that can cause dangerous health consequences, such as allergic reactions and side effects. Some may contain the wrong dose — or none at all — of the active ingredient. Either way, counterfeit drugs can keep you from getting the treatment you need and may cause your medical condition to get worse.

Where do counterfeit drugs come from?
Both brand name and generic drugs may be counterfeited. Counterfeit drugs can be manufactured anywhere in the world, although most of them originate in foreign countries where enforcement systems are lax. Some counterfeit drugs look so much like the real thing they can fool health professionals and patients alike. Even the labeling on the container may look identical to the real product.

What is being done to stop counterfeit drugs?
California is a pioneer in a nationwide system that will track and trace every pharmaceutical container that enters the state. The California State Board of Pharmacy developed the program known as e-pedigree to safeguard the drug supply and prevent counterfeit drugs from entering California. The program requires that every pharmaceutical container be scanned and tracked through each step of the supply chain, from the manufacturer to the pharmacy. The first phase of the program will begin in 2015, with full implementation expected by mid-2017

What you can do now to minimize your risk

1. Use extra caution if you buy from Internet pharmacies

  • If an Internet pharmacy doesn’t list a physical address, don’t buy from it. According to the World Health Organization, 50 percent of medicines bought on the Internet from sites that conceal their physical address are counterfeit.
  • Avoid Internet pharmacies that offer a prescription drug based only on a questionnaire and without a prescription. You may receive an incorrect diagnosis or receive drugs that are expired, counterfeit or inappropriate for your condition. Under California law, it is illegal to dispense prescription drugs without a valid prescription, so these websites are breaking the law.
  • All pharmacies that dispense drugs to patients in California, including Internet pharmacies, must be licensed by the California State Board of Pharmacy. If the pharmacy is located in another state but selling to California residents, it must be licensed in both its home state and California. You can check to see if the pharmacy is licensed by going to the California State Board of Pharmacy website, www.pharmacy.ca.gov. Simply click on ‘Verify a License’ and enter the name of the pharmacy.
  • Check to make sure there is a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal displayed on the website. This ensures that the pharmacy is licensed and the medicines they are selling are FDA-approved. For more information visit the VIPPS website, www.nabp.net.

2. Take an active role in your own safety

  • Check the appearance of the medicine including its color, texture, and shape. If the medicine looks or tastes differently than the last time you had the prescription filled, tell your pharmacist immediately.
  • Pay attention to the medicine container and the packaging to make sure it hasn’t been altered in any way. If you suspect the packaging has been tampered with, contact the pharmacy where you bought the medicine or notify the California State Board of Pharmacy at the number listed on the back of this brochure. You may also notify the Food and Drug Administration by calling (800) FDA-1088 or going online to www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm170314.htm to file a report.