Dr Oz: Impostors In Your Medicine Cabinet
Are there impostors in your medicine cabinet? Dr Oz said that drugs from China and India could be repackaged with brand name labels, so you don’t know it’s not the real stuff. These drugs could end up somewhere like the Netherlands, before being shipped to the US and Canada.
Dr Oz said that 100% of our antibiotics, along with half our OTC and prescription medications start out in China and India. Raids in these countries have revealed unsafe ingredients and practices in some facilities. How have counterfeit drugs made their way into the United States?
Dr Oz: Are You Taking Counterfeit Drugs?
Dr Roger Bate, a researcher and the author of Phake, said that the majority of counterfeit drugs are being sold via online pharmacies. Thousands of sellers online are muddying the waters among perhaps a few hundred who are licensed and legitimate, Bate said.
Elizabeth Jungman, director of drug safety and innovation for the Pew Charitable Trusts, said that counterfeiters target consumers, primarily online. She said that 97% of online pharmacies had problems, with as many as 88% not requiring prescriptions.
“What seems like a good deal online could be a bad deal for your health,” Jungman said.
Dr Oz: Are Overseas Medicines a Health Risk?
Taking bogus medicine could mean you are unknowingly ingesting toxins. Recently, dozens of patients were sickened and even killed due to a contaminated blood thinner. In other cases, Jungman told Dr Oz that drugs may not contain any active ingredients.
Cancer drugs have been a problem with this, she told Dr Oz, and patients may not know that what they are taking is not real.
Dr Oz: Real Vs Fake Medication
Dr Oz showed pictures of a blood thinner, Plavix. One was real and one was fake, but they looked identical. Dr Bate said there are slight differences that would be visible under a microscope. Your only hope to notice a difference is if it is a drug you regularly take.
What is in medicine other than what is supposed to be? Dr Bate told Dr Oz that fillers such as chalk, talcum powder, or road paint might be in the drug, or it could have acetaminophen or Tylenol.
The experts showed a tray of fake drugs that looked like the real thing. Antibiotics and other popular medications are being routinely faked by counterfeiters. On the opposite end of the extreme, you could receive a higher dosage than you need, which could be harmful.
Dr Oz: Counterfeit Medicine FDA Regulation
Jungman said that a recently passed law requires manufacturers to print a unique serial number on every bottle of medicine, making it trackable through the supply chain and allowing pharmacists to verify the legitimacy of drugs.
The FDA works with industry and law enforcement to shut down illegitimate supply chains. The Food and Drug Administration is also responsible for maintaining quality standards in drug manufacturing, but Jungman said this has been a problem with overseas suppliers, some of which are only inspected about every nine years.
Hopefully, new legislation and funding will enable them to conduct more frequent safety inspections, she said. What did the FDA have to say? Here is the partial statement Dr Oz shared from them:
Due to the global nature of the prescription drug supply chain, product safety and quality no longer begin or end at our border.
Dr Oz: Online Pharmacy Shopping Safety
Dr Oz said he knows consumers are out to get the best deal while staying healthy. He shared a few tips to help you avoid prescription problems.
- Only use US-based online pharmacies carrying the VIPPS seal of approval.
- Look for and attempt to use a contact phone number for your online pharmacy.
- Only order drugs from online pharmacies that require a prescription.
Jungman added that medications you bought in a store and already have in your home are probably OK. But if a medicine looks or smells unusual, think about throwing it out. Also, think twice about anything you ordered online, without a prescription, or at a price that seemed too good to be true.