Campaign warns of dangers of cheap drugsMillions are risking their lives taking fake drugs

03 November 2009

Counterfeit Medicine

One in seven adults are risking their lives by buying counterfeit medicine online rather than getting a prescription from their GP, according to research out today.

A campaign has been launched to warn the public of the risks of buying medicines that at best may have no medical benefits and at worst may harm your health.

The hard-hitting Get Real, Get a Prescription campaign warns of the dangers of buying fake medicines from unregulated websites.


Cheap drugs

According to the research, people buy medicines in this way because they think they’re getting cheaper drugs, faster delivery, and better choice when in fact they're taking a gamble with their health.

It's not just drugs for weight loss or erectile dysfunction (ED) that are being faked. Counterfeiters are now targeting lifesaving medicines for conditions such as cancer and heart problems.

Counterfeit medicines are big business with global sales of fake medicines expected to reach $75 billion (£45.75 billion) by 2010.

Rat poison found in fake drugs

The counterfeiters target consumers with spam emails offering cheap Viagra to treat ED. One way to stop these spam emails is to get security software with a spam filter.

Fake medicines can contain harmful ingredients such as rat poison, boric acid and lead paint.
They are often produced by people with no appropriate qualifications and can include too much, too little or none of the active medical ingredient which cause harm to patients andcan sometimes lead to death, the research said.

Hard-hitting campaign

The campaign is a joint initiative by Pfizer, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB), The Patients Association and HEART UK.

The campaign features a shocking television ad in which a man receives some counterfeit medicine in the post. After taking a tablet he coughs up a dead rat.

Dr Berkeley Phillips, medical director at Pfizer, said: ‘We believe people are blinkered to the very real dangers of counterfeit medicine, which is why we're launching a deliberately hard-hitting campaign to educate them

‘Not only are people putting themselves at risk by taking fake medicine, but they're forfeiting invaluable support from healthcare professionals, and missing out on important advice and care, which can leave underlying health problems undetected.’

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