Frequently Asked Questions about spurious drugs

Frequently Asked Questions about spurious drugs


Q: What are spurious drugs?

A: Spurious drugs include any fake or substandard medicine that is below the FDA's established standards of quality but hide this fact. Spurious drugs can be any, or all, of the following things:

Fact: Spurious drugs are not limited to brand-name prescription drugs. Counterfeiters also create fake versions of generic and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

Too strong or too weak
Missing key ingredients
Made with dangerous ingredients
Contaminated with foreign, even toxic, materials
Made in unsanitary or unsterile conditions
Created using unsafe standards
Improperly labeled, stored or handled
Expired (out-of-date)

Q: Why are spurious drugs dangerous?
A: Not only do counterfeit drugs defraud consumers, they deny patients the therapies that can alleviate suffering and save lives—and in too many cases, counterfeit drugs cause great harm and fatalities. They can cause allergic reactions, heavy metal poisoning, as well as promote drug resistance strains of diseases. These fake drugs may consist of anything from chalk, powdered concrete, and boric acid (or worse) and are sold as if they were real drugs. Because counterfeiters are very good at making their product look like the real thing, it is easy to confuse these harmful products with the real thing.

Q: What types of drugs are counterfeited?
A: Any drug, from an antibiotic to a pain medication, can be counterfeited. In 2007, counterfeiters sold more than 600 different types of branded, generic and over-the-counter drugs and used improved packaging to make their counterfeit goods harder to detect.

Q: Are there ways I can tell if a drug is spurious?
A: While some spurious drugs are nearly indistinguishable to the legitimate product, many counterfeit drugs leave visual clues or have physical traits that can help you judge whether or not the medicines are real. When you start taking a medicine, create a "baseline" of the drug's characteristics, including its appearance, taste, texture, reactions and packaging. Compare the medicine you receive with what it is supposed to look, taste and feel like. When comparing packaging, look for differences in paper, printing, color, and fonts (i.e., is it the same size, raised print, embossed, etc.).

Q: I think I purchased a counterfeit drug, now what should I do?
A: If you have any concerns about the quality of your drugs, or have confirmed there is a difference in packaging, labeling, or pills, immediately contact the pharmacy where you purchased them. If you purchase a generic version of a prescription drug, be aware that color and packaging may change if a pharmacy receives the generic version from a new distributor. You may also want to contact the FDA, your State Board of Pharmacy and the manufacturer of the medication to report your concerns. The FDA can be contacted.

Do not throw the suspect product away; the appropriate authorities may want to have it for analysis. However, it is important that you and any family members do not confuse this medication with any legitimate prescription drugs you may be taking. Clearly mark the medicine as suspect and make sure it is unavailable to you or others in your family until you can send the suspect medication to the appropriate local law enforcement officials or dispose of it safely.