The medicine market in Uttar Pradesh is said to have an annual turnover of Rs 17,000 crore, and an underlying fear of many officials is that almost 1.5 per cent of this could be from fake drugs.
A random check by health authorities at certain premises has revealed a large amount of fake and spurious drugs being circulated in the market. The raids on various locations in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have resulted in the seizure of fake medicines worth about Rs 6 crore.
Many pharmacies offer their customers discounts between 5 and 10 per cent; a tip-off about antibiotics being sold at a discount of almost 30 per cent is what alerted the officials.
According to a report published by the World Health Organisation, one in ten medical products circulating in low- and middle-income countries are estimated to be either substandard or falsified, endangering the lives of millions.
After buying medicines from the pharmacy, have you ever taken the trouble to verify their authenticity? I never have, but perhaps it’s time to start doing it.
Here are some ways in which you can ascertain their authenticity:
1. Check the seal
The security seal, especially in bottled medicines, should not be damaged or tampered. Look for a crack or break in the sealing tape before making the purchase. If you feel it is broken or tampered, do not buy it.
2. Check the packaging
This is perhaps the simplest method. If it is a medicine you have purchased previously, look at the font, spellings, and the colour. Most often, one or all of these are wrong in a fake medicine.
3. Visual inspection of medicines
As stated by the World Health Organisation, the common physical attributes that need to be looked up 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 crystals on the container walls or the medicine tablets;
• Softening or hardening of the medicines;
• Swelling, spots or discolouration of the tablets
If there is a sudden dip in the price of the medicines, then be sure to double-check. The chances in such a case can mean that it is a spurious drug. Medicines are usually manufactured in comparatively the same manner; hence, changes in the pricing of one brand can greatly affect all other pharmaceutical companies. So beware!
5. Unexpected side-effects or allergies
The immediate impact that counterfeit drugs can have on us is an allergic reaction or a sudden unexpected side-effect. The spurious drugs may contain incorrect substances, improper dosage or hazardous substances, which do not elicit any therapeutic effect. If you experience any unforeseen side-effects, stop consuming the medicine immediately and check with your doctor.
6. Verify authenticity by sending SMS
The Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) has come up with a technological solution to check the authenticity of medicines. For this, consumers can SMS the unique “Authentication code” to 9901099010 to receive an authentication message from the pharmaceutical manufacturer.
You can read more about this here.
With the number of fake drugs in the market increasing rapidly, it is imperative that we exercise utmost caution while making a purchase. If you have any doubts about their authenticity, do not buy them.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)