Analyses of falsified medication seized by customs or bought online reveal that they regularly contain five types of compounds that are harmful to humans:
- Heavy metals (mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum …) : According to a Korean study published in 2010, 26% of medicines bought from illegal online pharmacies contain products that are carcinogenic and toxic to the central nervous system, the kidneys, or the liver.
- “Real poisons” (rat poison, boric acid, antifreeze…) : Toxic for the kidneys, they provoke renal insufficiencies and developmental abnormalities, they were the cause of death of 84 children in Nigeria in 2009 (the cough syrup identified contained in fact antifreeze).
- Common household products (brick dust, paint, wood wax …) : Used by counterfeiters to improve the appearance of their falsified products, they are the cause of a wide range of undesirable effects from vomiting to vertigo and even death.
- Incorrect and undesirable active ingredients (silbutramine, haloperidol …) : All put the patient at risk and can lead to health problems that are more or less sever depending on their dosage and effect (difficulty breathing, muscle spasms, hypertension, strokes…).
- Complete absence of active ingredients : Not only do products with no active ingredients prevent patients from getting better but they divert effective therapies and prolong the wait before proper treatment can be administered, sometimes in urgent cases. These products can be as dangerous as falsified medicines with poisonous or substandard active ingredients and in certain cases they can be lethal.
Falsified medicines are a very real threat to patients’ health and must be battled relentlessly.