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

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

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

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

#DidYouKnow? 96% of online pharmacies operate illegally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Both branded and generic products are subject to counterfeiting

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

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