Institute of Medicine Report Says Counterfeit Drugs Still Dangerous

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Medicine spilled from bottleIn a report released in February 2013, the Institute of Medicine called counterfeit drugs a critical global public health issue.  It says “the fallout of falsified and substandard medicines includes poisoning, untreated disease, early death, and treatment failure.”

Incidents involving counterfeit drugs contained in the report include:

-Fake Avastin, a cancer drug, which sold for almost $2000 a vial

-Counterfeit version of Adderall 30 milligram tablets that is being purchased on the Internet

-Teething syrup and cough syrup containing the industrial solvent diethylene glucol—the active ingredient in antifreeze—caused acute kidney failure and death in 84 Nigerian children and an estimated 219 people in Panama.

-Blood glucose test strips producing inaccurate blood glucose level readings were traced back to a pharmaceutical company in Shanghai; the strips made their way to 8 countries and 35 U.S. states.

-Diabetes medicine containing 6 times the standard dose

-Contaminated blood thinner, heparin, made in China caused at least 62 deaths

-13% of capsule manufacturers are making drugs containing unsafe levels of chromium, a toxic metal.

-Medicines containing filler ingredients such as chalk, pollen, flour, talc, starch, drywall, yellow highway line paint

-Water disguised as meningitis vaccine caused 2,500 – 3,000 deaths

-Substandard hepatitis B and rabies vaccines, antibiotics and antimalarial drugs

-Unauthorized online pharmacies selling three popular drugs some of which had three times the level of active ingredients and some of which had no active ingredients

According to the report, while the risks of counterfeit drugs are worse in developing countries, the problem affects all of us.  Today, of the drugs Americans take, 40 percent are imported and 80 percent of the active ingredients of those drugs come from overseas sources.  Substandard drugs have been cited as being one cause of  the rise of multidrug resistant tuberculosis and pneumonia and drug resistant malaria parasites.

Another problem with counterfeit drugs is that they are often the business of criminal cartels, including the Camorra crime group in Naples, the Russian mafia, Latin American drug cartels, and terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, and Hezbollah, and sale of the drugs funds other criminal activities.

With so many Americans ordering medicine online these days, consumers have to be careful.  Amanda, our Trade Practice Specialist here at the Tri-State Better Business Bureau, wrote about safe online medicine purchasing tips from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Beware of online pharmacies that:

-Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription from your doctor

-Offer deep discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true

-Send spam or unsolicited email offering cheap drugs

-Are located outside of the United States

-Are not licensed in the United States”

For more information you can trust, please see

Widespread Medical Scam Claiming Hoosier Victims

Should I Buy Medication Online?

Drug Relief In All The Wrong Places

Buying & Using Medicine Safely, Counterfeit Medicine

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Written by

Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.

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