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Counterfeit drugs are drugs that are produced and sold with the intent to mimic real drugs and medications but they may contain the wrong amount of active ingredients, or none, or they may be improperly processed within the body, or they may contain ingredients that are not on the label that could be harmful. This is a big problem in developing nations, where experts estimate that one in every ten medications is fake.

The dangers of counterfeit drugs on the market: Online Pharmacies

In the United States, we generally have safeguards from the dangers of counterfeit drugs. The FDA regulates the production and sale of over the counter and prescription drugs. The exception to this is online pharmacies. The FDA has warned consumers that the vast majority of online pharmacies are fraudulent and will likely sell counterfeit drugs. However, there are still people that use online pharmacies to get inexpensive medication or to buy narcotics without a prescription.

More than a quarter of Internet shoppers buy drugs online. Producing counterfeit drugs is a low risk, high profit enterprise, and many are quick to take advantage. Unfortunately, some of the people most likely to get duped are retired Americans living on a fixed income. They seek out online pharmacies because their incomes will no longer cover the rising cost of their prescription medications. The uninsured and underinsured also turn to online pharmacies to get a lower price on medications. Foreign versions of drugs can cost roughly half what they do in the United States.

Another group of people who seek out the services of online pharmacies are illicit drug users trying to get narcotics without a prescription. This group, understandably, garners less sympathy than people who cannot afford their medications.

The dangers of counterfeit drugs on the market: What’s the risk?

Obviously, one of the dangers of counterfeit drugs on the market is that you will get a drug without the active ingredient or with the wrong amount of active ingredient, so your condition will not be treated. However, some counterfeit drugs contain dangerous, even poisonous ingredients as well.  Counterfeit drugs could also cause people to develop a resistance to their real medicine, cause new side effects or trigger harmful interactions with other medications being taken.

The dangers of counterfeit drugs on the market: How to Avoid It

Since the main source of counterfeit drugs on the market in the US are from online pharmacies, the best way to avoid getting counterfeit or expired drugs it to buy from a reputable site. Look for pharmacies that are located in the US, are licensed by the pharmacy board in the patient’s state and have a licensed pharmacist available to answer questions.  Also, all legitimate online pharmacies should ask for a doctor’s prescription. Those that claim they can write a prescription after you answer a few questions are breaking the law and likely to send you counterfeit drugs. Also keep in mind that while the FDA doesn’t prosecute individual consumers whose purchases present no threat to themselves or the public, it is still breaking the law to order medications from a pharmacy located in another country.

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