Monday, December 21, 2015

How to Identify Fake Online Pharmacy

After a massive close down of thousands of websites found to be fake online pharmacies using individuals claiming to be doctors and issuing fraudulent prescriptions or selling counterfeit medicines, the authorities have imposed warnings to be the public to be more cautious in any transactions done online especially on pro-health claiming sites. In response, sales of online pharmacies began to drop, affecting even the legitimate entrepreneurs online.

Although most would not comment, there are those who filed their complaints for the public to see such as the Canadian-based online pharmacy, who asserted that their products are legitimate. This company, along with that of several others in UK stated that they never give prescriptions even when it is only to comment on an inquiry but instead encourage their clients to seek a physician first. The medicines prescribed by a legitimate doctor is then emailed or faxed to them.

The manager, under the name Carl, admitted he had lost most of his clients who suspected his business and has therefore spoiled his good name. In an interview with The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization providing imperative information on counterfeit medicines, one of Carl’s clients who chose to speak anonymously accused Carl’s company for selling “sugar pills”. Carl then resolutely stated that these allegations are without merit and that his company has never sold any fraud medicines. The case is still under investigation as the drugs were traced to be manufactured in Jakarta, Indonesia.

According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Legitimate pharmacy sites on the Internet provide consumers with a convenient, private way to obtain needed medications, sometimes at more affordable prices. The elderly and persons in remote areas can avoid the inconvenience of traveling to a store to purchase medications. Many reputable Internet pharmacies allow patients to consult with a licensed pharmacist from the privacy of their home.”

But this is not without risk. There is still no knowing whether the site is safe just because the purchase is convenient and the appearance looks legitimate enough.

To be sure, FDA encourages consumers to first check where a list of illegitimate online pharmacies is published.  These include those that claim to dispense drugs without a prescription or sell products not approved by the FDA, and, of course, fake online pharmacies that are downright fraudulent.

In addition to being included on this list, other warning signs of fake online pharmacies include sites that don’t provide a physical address for their business or don’t list a verifiable phone number.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Process of Diversion in Legitimate Process

There is a definite process followed by a lot of counterfeiters across the world. Some of these methods have already been tackled by authorities. These have been tracked and sought after in many countries for similar processes. Others remain a mystery even to the Interpol and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  For instance, how the counterfeiters were able to infiltrate the tight security around Jakarta without being detected in Java and other islands of Indonesia is still being reviewed. Even more surprising is the increasing number of counterfeiting cases when the government has clearly imposed immediate execution to anyone found to illegally smuggle goods within the archipelago. One thing is for sure though, these counterfeiters not only work with black markets selling ample amount of fraud goods. They have also already penetrated the legitimate market, blending in with the real products and making it hard for the authorities to capture the main culprit.

While there is the emergence of tampering and stealing of intellectual property rights from legitimate manufacturers, other methods of fraudulence include Diversion. 

In this level, medicines created and designed for a specific market or function is remarketed in violation of the producer’s instructions. These counterfeiters mostly target non-profit and humanitarian organizations or the supply of free samples to hospitals and clinics. 

According to a study conducted by The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines across the world shows that between 1992 and 2002, prescriptions written for unscheduled and scheduled drugs increased by 56.6% and 154.3% respectively.

Further emphasized in the study is that diversion can happen within the limits of a specific country or it may become an international scope.

Drug diversion in North Korea is one of the examples the first form of this kind of phenomenon. Since there are no other sources of medicines in this secluded country, some corrupt officials steal some of the medicines and resell it to the citizens even when it is marked as “UN aid”.

The other form of this phenomenon is driven by economic motive. For instance, an aid from the western countries can be halted by other leading countries and sold to neighboring nations for a higher price. The entity can also fraudulently acquire the products from the producer, declaring an intention to deliver the drugs for humanitarian purposes but in reality it re-markets the drugs after acquiring them at low cost. These international exchanges are implemented through multiple transfers and involve frequent repackaging of the product, thereby providing opportunities for counterfeit products to penetrate the legal distribution chain.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

China still a Drug Counterfeit Hub

For decades, we have heard of different warnings by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the dangers of counterfeit medicines which dominate today’s online pharmacies and most of the gray markets across the world. Variations of counterfeit medicines are being introduced from Tamiflu found in the United States; Bevacizumab in Turkey, Switzerland, Denmark, UK and Canada; chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as antimalarial drugs in Kenya and Africa; and Viagra and Cialis in Jakarta, Indonesia and Victoria, Hong Kong. The number and varieties are continuously growing as more and more counterfeit medicines are being discovered. The likely targets are the expensive ones since it can be hard to procure and are less to get any suspicion.

Tracing back the root source of these medicines, we are always led towards China, the leading manufacturer of counterfeit medicines. The world’s largest country’s reputation for counterfeiting not only medicines but also other products has been known globally. This status is not without any statistics and claims as well. There is enough reason to acknowledge any complaints on fraudulent distribution and shipment from China.

Local Chinese police, together with The Peterson Group, non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Interpol has arrested 1, 900 people on a crackdown in 2012 which was considered as one of the most lucrative operations in the history of counterfeiting earning millions of dollars each year.

Despite this arrest three years ago, the problem of fake medicines was far from being rooted out as operation after operation are still being raided every year. If so, fraudsters have even become more elusive and deceptive with new methods of production and distribution.

Fortunately, local units and organizations in the People’s Republic of China have realized the danger of the business that they too, started to create laws and regulations against the illegal practice. As reported by World Health Organization (WHO), the Chinese government has developed strict legal scheme for anti-counterfeiting by creating the Drug Administration Law of the PRC. The amendment not only adapted the need of drug supervision, but also represented the public will, somehow reflecting China’s determination in combating counterfeit medicines and not tolerating it, just as many people believe.

Since 2009, the local task force has also been in an active participation to any raids and buy-bust operations against illegal marketers of counterfeit medicines and has since joined forces with international organizations. The battle continues even until today.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

FDA Investigates the Use of Oxytocin in Ghana

Through the passing of years, the continent of Africa is one of the most frequented by drug smugglers. Not only are the less developed countries in the region were the ones mostly visited. Urbanized ones have been the venue for transaction. From these places, it gets easier for fraudsters to transfer their counterfeited drugs to other less secure regions. 

The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization campaigning against the proliferation of counterfeit medicines, has reported new methods on the widespread of Oxytocin in Ghana, according to a tip by an anonymous informant. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has decided to further investigate on the matter and found out several big companies for fraudulently importing fake products in the country.

According to a report review, FDA claims the “dangerous drugs” have already found their way into hospitals and pharmacy shops.

Some women have apparently been administered with two such drugs, Oxytocin and Ergometrine, which are injected to control bleeding after delivery.

The contaminated Oxytocin reportedly was manufactured in China by companies with fake addresses.

In the case of Ergometrine, the FDA said their investigations showed that it was imported from Jakarta, Indonesia and contained no active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Critics, on the other hand, blame the laxity of FDA security in order to prevent the proliferation of the counterfeited drugs earlier. If not for NGOs and local units who are actively gathering more information, FDA, which has the main function to take down counterfeiting, would have never found out about the new methods. The authority does not have any idea on how the medicines are distributed in the country and on how it has been circulating between legitimate pharmacies.

Statistics show that on the Ghanaian market between August and September 2012. A total of 303 samples— 185 Oxytocin injection, 103 Ergometrine injection, and 15 Ergometrine tablets—were sampled from both public and private hospitals, clinics, medical stores, pharmaceutical outlets, and the informal sector across the ten regions of Ghana

In addition, the storage conditions recommended by the manufacturers of more than 50% of both the Oxytocin and Ergometrine injections were not consistent with recommendations in the official compendia. This indicates a lack of awareness of the appropriate storage conditions for these uterotonic products. The pharmacies involved also face complaints from critics. FDA, on the other hand, has promised to undergo proper implementation of jurisdiction if the companies are found to be involved in the distribution.