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Archive for the ‘Counterfeit Drugs’ Category

A Look into Online Pharmacies

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

When someone says “online pharmacy,” what do you think? Discounted drugs, no need for a prescription, illegal activity… counterfeit or adulterated medications?

Online pharmacies tend to fall into the illegal activity and counterfeit medication categories. While there are some legal and legitimate online pharmacies out there (more on that in a minute), you need to be aware that more and more online shops are popping up selling expensive medications at better than wholesale prices.

Due to the fact that counterfeit versions of at least 40 of its drugs have been found in more than 100 countries, drug maker Pfizer and a national pharmacy standards group started a website warning consumers about counterfeit prescription drugs and explaining how to find legitimate online pharmacies.

One way to weed out the bad online pharmacies is to look at their prices. If they are too good to be true – they are. For instance, Pfizer’s drug Viagra typically is sold to distributors for around $18 per tablet. One online pharmacy sells 25mg tablets for between $1.09 to $2.49, and another list 130mg tablets from 99 cents to $1.31 per pill. How can they sell an $18 per pill drug for as little as one dollar? Where is the profit in that?

Scope of the Problem

While it is very difficult to measure how much illegal pharmacies are making from selling counterfeit medications, a case was recently in the spotlight concerning these online pharmacies. In August 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice demanded Google to forfeit $500 million in revenue generated by online ads for online pharmacies. $500 million on advertising is a big chunk of change – if these pharmacies can afford that, this business model is obviously lucrative.

Legitimate Online Pharmacies?

The controversy exits with online pharmacies. I am sure you have people (including your physicians) telling you not to purchase medications over the internet. However, there are legitimate safe online pharmacies. How can you find them? The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) developed the VIPPS accreditation program, which evaluates Internet pharmacy practice. A VIPPS accreditation verifies that the online pharmacy is a virtual equivalent to a brick and mortar shop down the street. But please, keep a watchful with online pharmacies – it should be noted that there are only 29 online pharmacies holding VIPPS accreditation.

Don’t Want to Be Duped?

Now you are thinking, “How can I protect myself from these online predators?” First of all, the easiest way is to avoid online pharmacies. However, there may be some instances where you cannot avoid it. What should you do then?

  1. Buy drugs only from trusted retailers (VIPPS accreditation) and stay away from non-regulated online pharmacies.
  2. If traveling abroad, please bring medications with you and avoid purchasing from countries with a high counterfeit mix (most notably African countries).
  3. The easiest and most resourceful way to avoid counterfeit products is to education yourself on the medications you take. An informed consumer is an empowered consumer. If the drug isn’t acting how it was when you took last month’s supply, it could be counterfeit. If the bottle looks tampered with, check with your pharmacist.
  4. If you have any questions or are worried about your medication, talk with your pharmacist about any recent counterfeit products or check the FDA or drug manufacturer’s website.

Pill Mills: New Laws, New Offenders, Same Old Scheming

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

What is a Pill Mill?

A Pill Mill consists of a doctor, clinic or pharmacy that is prescribing or dispensing powerful narcotics inappropriately or for non-medical reasons.

How do pill mills work?

  • Only accepts cash
  • Pain is the only illness “treated”
  • No physical exam is needed
  • Pain is only treated will pills, no other methods are examined

New Laws

Rules in Pill Mill hotbeds of Florida and Ohio have recently been put into place to stop these schemes. In Ohio a bill passed that will enhance “reporting requirements for physicians who also furnish drugs, establish a clearer definition of “pain management clinic,” and require the state Medical Board to develop standards for operating such clinics.”

The bill also mandates that Medicare and Medicaid systems be better managed to weed out individuals who are getting the prescription medications and then selling them.

In Florida, lawmakers have made more requirements for doctors looking to operate pain management clinics. The law will also impose new administrative and criminal penalties for doctors who overprescribe narcotics.

Recent Crackdowns

A February raid of 11 pain clinics from Miami to West Palm Beach lead to the arrests of 23 people, including four physicians, and seized $2.5 million in cash and dozens of cars.

Something good to come from these recent raids – Oxycodone pills are harder to find in street deals nowadays, evidenced by the rise in prices from around $5 per pill to $20.

Cracking down on prescription drug abuse will hopefully lead to fewer prescription drug related deaths.

Thanks for reading!

Your healthcare resource – Rebecca Busch

Protect Yourself from Counterfeit Products and Medications

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Johnson & Johnson recently discovered fake diabetes test strips in India – these strips were found in their ongoing worldwide effort to eradicate counterfeit and tampered products.

Johnson & Johnson suspects the strips were made in China and repackaged in counterfeit packaging in India (a whole production).

The good news for American consumers is that Johnson & Johnson has seen no evidence of fake OneTouch strips in the U.S. over the past three years; however, counterfeits continue to periodically crop up in other countries, including Egypt last year and Pakistan in 2009.

How can you, as a consumer, protect yourself from tampered products and medications?
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the FDA provide great resources for consumers.

Some of their tips include:

  • Read the label. Be alert to the tamper-evident features on the package before you open it. These features are described on the label.
  • Inspect the outer packaging for signs of tampering before you buy a product.
  • Examine the medicine itself before taking it. Check for capsules or tablets that differ from the others that are enclosed. Do not use medicine from packages with tears, cuts, or other imperfections.
  • Never take medicine in the dark.
  • Examine the label and the medicine every time you take it or give it to someone else.
  • Tell somebody if the product doesn’t look right. Do not buy or use medicine that looks suspicious. Always tell the store manager about questionable products so that they can be removed.
  • Before buying any medicine, you should stop and take a look. Before taking it, you should look again.

Ensuring Safe Use of Medicine

Thanks for reading!

Your healthcare resource – Rebecca Busch

Counterfeit Drug Update

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Text messages to combat counterfeit drugs:

In Africa, counterfeit drugs are a growing health concern. Some estimates say that nearly 50% of the drug supply is counterfeit. What is one way to combat this growing epidemic? Text messages. That’s right, African’s can submit a verification code hidden in the medicines packaging and submit it to a service to verify whether it is authentic. This pedigree system puts the power back into patient’s hands.

Medicine supply chain breach – worst ever

A British man was found guilty and sentenced to eight years for his involvement in a scheme known as Operation Singapore, which centered on the importation of more than two million doses of counterfeit life-saving medicines into the country.

More than half of these were captured by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, but a huge amount – almost 900,000 doses – initially reached pharmacies and patients.

Despite an immediate recall of the drugs Zyprexa (olanzapine), Plavix (clopidogrel) and, Casodex (bicalutamide), 700,000 doses were left unaccounted for, putting the health of consumers in jeopardy.

Fake drugs are threatening public health

Consumers look to the FDA and the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to prevent counterfeit drugs from breaching the system. What strong holds are they putting into place to combat this growing problem?

“Recent developments have revealed that only a cross-functional and integrated approach can be successful in defeating counterfeiting and fraud as well as the diversion of pharmaceutical products. That is why the use of these anti-counterfeiting technologies should be embraced extensively by consumers of pharmaceuticals products and pharmaceutical companies should equally employ security technologies in packaging, primarily to support product authentication, provide an indication of a drug purity and allow supply chain to be tracked.”

To read more about new initiatives visit here.

Thanks for reading!

Your healthcare resource – Rebecca Busch

Tips for Protecting Yourself from Healthcare Fraud

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Rebecca Busch’s healthcare tips were recently featured on EmpowHER a health and wellness site for women.

EmpowHER brings together women of all backgrounds to share their health stories, triumphs and tragedies. For Rebecca’s part, she spoke on what she knows best, healthcare fraud.

Rebecca’s Health Care Tips

1. Counterfeit Drugs
If you take a medication for a chronic condition, save the packaging from the month before and compare the bottle, packaging or the pill itself.
2. Double Billing
Look at your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) after each doctor’s visit. Ask yourself, “Did I actually see that doctor or receive those services?” If the answer is no, call your insurer immediately.
3. Medical Identity Theft
If you don’t monitor your EOBs fraudsters have a better chance of stealing your Medical Identity. This can cause both financial and physical harm – if someone else’s information is included in your medical record you could receive false diagnoses. Take ownership of your healthcare finances and request your medical records and bills once a year.
4. Medication Delivery Errors
Deaths occur each year because patients are given prescriptions at the wrong time, in the wrong dose and of the wrong medications. Make sure you understand your medication regime and that the hospital staff is adhering to it.
5. Phantom Treatments
Some healthcare criminals bill insurance companies for services never received by patients. If you receive a bill that doesn’t make sense, contact the provider or your insurer.
6. Invalid Licenses
Some doctors practice without a valid license. To verify a license, find the Department of Regulation for your state and look up your provider’s name. Here, you can also see if they have ever had a disciplinary action against them.
7. Fake Insurance
Dishonest insurance agents and brokers sell discount cards and insurance cards for fake policies. Any health insurance plans that are priced below industry norms are likely fake. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it is.
8. Prescription Mix-Ups
Medication errors occur more than you think – a hospital on the East Cost mixed up medication in roughly 1 in 8 prescriptions filled. Take an active role in your care and check your pills to ensure you have been given the drug you were prescribed.
9. Bad & Low Quality Care
Unqualified and untrained surgeons perform surgeries. Doctors use defective medical equipment to perform exams. Check the reputations of your doctors and facilities. Look for complaints lodged against them.

Counterfeit drugs and their effect on health & healthcare

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Counterfeit drugs are killing or greatly harming patients that are desperate for medical care. Estimates state that nearly 700,000 people are killed each year after ingesting counterfeit malaria and tuberculosis drugs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 30% of medication on the market in developing countries in Africa are counterfeit and have found that nearly 50% of the drugs sold in Angola, Burundi, and the Congo are of poor quality. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of anti-malaria drugs in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam contain insufficient active ingredients.

A 2003 Interpol survey on the quality of drugs available in Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous city concluded that 80% of the drugs available were fakes. In 2008, more than 80 children in Nigeria died after being given medicine that looked, smelled, and tasted like the real thing, but was laced with antifreeze.

Why are the numbers so high? Jacqueline Sawyer, Liaison Officer at WHO’s Prequalification of Medicines Programme, told MediaGlobal “The problem of counterfeit medicines is more prevalent in countries where medicine regulation is ineffective, smuggling of medicines is rampant, secret manufacturing exists, sanctions are absent or very weak, and there is high corruption.”

Do not think counterfeit or tampered drugs only exist in developing countries. An estimated 1% of all medicines dispensed in developed countries are counterfeit. Medicines containing boric acid and other lethal substances have been found recently in certain medications.

To be sure that your drug is safe to use, check the FDA’s website. They announce drugs that might have been tampered with and also have correct packaging and dosage information.
Recent FDA Headlines:
FDA Warns About Fraudulent Tamiflu
Warning: Counterfeit Alli
FDA Issues Warning on Counterfeit Surgical Mesh

Full article here.
FDA here.

Watch out for counterfeit weight-loss drug Alli

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

With weight-loss drugs all the rage these days I thought this post to be especially important. This is in response to an older post about counterfeit drugs. They are out there – even with over-the-counter medications like Alli. Tests conducted by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline show that counterfeit versions of Alli do not contain the active ingredient orlistat but instead a controlled substance called sibutramine. Sibutramine should not be taken without a doctor’s supervision and monitoring. Some frequent side effects include dry mouth, paradoxically increased appetite, nausea, strange taste in mouth, upset stomach, constipation, trouble sleeping, dizziness, drowsiness, menstrual cramps/pain, headache, flushing, or joint/muscle pain.

Counterfeit Alli looks similar to the authentic product, however some notable differences occur with packaging.
1. Outer cardboard packaging missing a “Lot” code
2. Expiration date that includes the month, day and year – authentic Alli only includes month and year
3. Packaging in a plastic bottle that has a slightly taller and wider cap with coarser ribbing than genuine product
4. Plain foil inner safety seal under the plastic cap without any printed words – authentic Alli seal is printed with “SEALED for YOUR PROTECTION”
5. Contains larger capsules with a white powder instead of small white pellets

See FDA’s full report here including pictures.

Remember – be a conscientious consumer and watch out for counterfeit medication, it could have very adverse outcomes on your health.

Crackdown on counterfeit drugs

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

A global crackdown on counterfeit drugs has uncovered more than 700 alleged packages of fake or suspicious prescription drugs including Claritin, Viagra and Vicodin. Some of the drugs might have had 3 times the active agreement than normally prescribed, others were placebos and some drugs contained materials typically not found in medications including drywall material, antifreeze and yellow highway paint.

See article for more information.

With the increasingly high costs of prescription medications, many people are turning to the Internet to fill their prescriptions. Internet pharmacies are a hot bed for counterfeit drugs. However, don’t assume you’re safe if you purchase from a brick and mortar pharmacy – counterfeit drugs can make their way into the supply chain anywhere.

Tips to Avoid Counterfeit Medicines

Counterfeit drugs are currently a $28 million industry. Don’t let yourself be a victim. Below are some tips that will help.

1. If you take a medication for a chronic condition – save the packaging from the month before and compare the bottle, packaging or the pill itself.

2. If you only receive the pill in a generic bottle compare a picture of the tablet at www.fda.gov by simply searching for the medication.

3. If you are taking a medication and it just doesn’t feel the same or is not working like it normally does, see your doctor and show the medication to your pharmacist.

4. If the medication is deemed counterfeit, save a sample until you see your doctor to make sure there will be no long term complications or side effects.