Fight The Fakes

Speak up about fake medicines.

Stories from the Front Line

Why We Should Care About Fake Medicines

Trevor Lowe |

Why We Should Care About Fake Medicines


If you walk into the British Museum in Bloomsbury, London and head to the gallery “Living and Dying”, you’ll find the installation “Cradle to Grave” – a glimmering showcase of life in contemporary Britain amongst exhibits from the Pacific Islands. Two lengths of textile rest under a glass sheet, one representing a man and one representing a woman, each containing over 14,000 pills. This is the estimated average that is prescribed to a resident of the UK in their lifetime.

Next to them are a series of objects and photographs to allow us to follow the lives of the man and the woman. Immunisations, condoms, an apple. Then, later in life: a mammogram, a hip replacement, an image of a grandparent and their grandson.

The piece allow us to reflect on past health, and also our future. It shows us our relationship with prescription drugs, and how reliant we are of them to lead an ordinary life.

In the UK, we rarely have to worry about the danger of fake medicines. Most of us get our drugs through stores that are accountable for what they sell, ensuring that our safety is their responsibility. We also tend not to buy drugs through poorly regulated online pharmacies due to the easily accessible flat-rate model that the NHS adopts. However, this does not mean that the problem is not there. In a survey done by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi, 50% of people had not heard of counterfeit drugs, and 63% of people think they are ill-informed of the dangers.

Many Britons believe that the danger of fake medicines is greater when travelling. This is true, as the luxury that we take for granted is not a given in developing countries, where there are not sufficient systems to monitor drug safety or accurate estimates of the magnitude of the problem.

Fight the Fakes aims to make the risk-free medication available to the whole world. As a future pharmacist, as a citizen of the UK and as a human being, campaigning for safe medicines is necessary and in need of urgent attention. I have never experienced a fake medicine, and I hope that one day no-one else will either.

Trevor Lowe, External Affairs Liaison for UCL Fight the Fakes, UCL School of Pharmacy

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Up to 30% of medicines in developing countries are #fakemeds

30% of countries have little or no regulation to effectively combat #fakemeds

In the US only 4% of online pharmacies appear to be in compliance with pharmacy laws & practice standards

.@UNODC estimates the market value of fake #antimalarials at over US$400mil in west Africa alone

Decades of fighting #malaria could be put at risk by #fakemeds on the market

Of the 1mil deaths per year due to #malaria, 200,000 could be avoided if patients weren't treated with #fakemeds

.@INTERPO_HQ L Operation #PangeaVI seized 9.8 million illegal & counterfeit drugs #fakemeds

In 2013 1.2 million sachets of #fakemeds were seized in Le Havre, France. The biggest seizure in the #EU

#Fakemeds seized in Le Havre in May 2013 were hidden in sachets of tea

In 2013 US authorities published warning of fake #diabetes meds—ineffective & dangerous for patients

On internet sites that conceal their physical address 50% of the drugs are #fakemeds

60% of all spam offers medicine- its an inexpensive way for #counterfeiters to target you with #fakemeds.

Criminals trafficking #fakemeds make profits 10x more than those trafficking illicit drugs

Poisons found in #fakemeds include mercury, rat poison, boric acid, paint & antifreeze

From antibiotics to pain relievers, more than 500 versions of fake #pharmaceutical products are circulating #fakemeds

More than 50% of medicine sold worldwide from illegal online sources are #fakemeds

1 out of 4 counterfeit products intercepted by EU customs in 2011 were #fakemeds

#DidYouKnow? 96% of online pharmacies operate illegally

123 countries are impacted by #fakemeds

1 medicine in 2 purchased on internet sites that conceal their physical address is a #fakemed

Both branded and generic products are subject to counterfeiting

700,000 people die because of #fakemeds to treat #malaria & #TB each year

36% of #anti-malarial drugs in #SoutheastAsia are #fakemeds

#Fakemeds seized during #Biyela? Antibiotics, painkillers, meds for high blood pressure & diabetes

India may have as much as 12-25% of their supply contaminated with substandard and #fakemeds

#fakemeds are 10% to 30% of global medicine: less than 1% in some countries, +30% in parts of Africa Asia & Latin America

#Fakemeds: 32% have no active ingredients, 40% have incorrect ingredients & dose, 8.5% contain dangerous contaminants

#fakemeds could be up to 15% of medicines in circulation worldwide

NIH 2012 study of 7 countries in southeast Asia reveals that 36% of #antimalarials are #fakemeds

#Fakemeds can contain no active ingredients at all – a direct threat to patients that need treatment

#DidYouKnow? Possession of #fakemeds is illegal, not just production or sale

Every therapeutic class of pharmaceutical product has been the subject of #counterfeiting

Up to 40% of the drug supply of some countries in Africa could be #fakemeds

2011: European Customs retained 27.5 million #fakemeds

20% of all #malaria deaths worldwide can be directly associated with the use of #fakemeds

In 2013, Operation #Biyela seized 550 million doses of illicit medicine in #Africa