The 2009 edition of the booklet Counterfeit Drugs: Coming to a Pharmacy Near You indicates that counterfeit drugs remain a real and increasing threat to global health, jeopardizing the security of the US drug supply, reports the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH).
The World Health Organization estimates that counterfeit drugs make up 10% of the global drug supply; the percentage is much higher in developing countries. Counterfeit drugs have contributed to the increasing drug resistance of diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. Hundreds of thousands of these counterfeits have been shipped to pharmacies and dispensed to patients. Studies have found that as much as 88% of drugs being imported into the United States violate FDA standards and are potentially dangerous. The agency has no ability to control the safety of drugs purchased through these channels.
ACSH President Elizabeth Whelan, ScD, MPH, warns that legalization of drug importation, advocated by many in Congress as an easy way to obtain less costly drugs, “represents an unjustifiable breaching of our domestic drug supply that has the potential to erase even the minimal gains we have made in the fight against counterfeit drugs.”
Whereas drug pedigrees, new anticounterfeit technology, and increasing licensing of wholesalers are addressing the issue, the efforts must be combined with aggressive enforcement, the council says.
The ACSH report recommends that people be aware of the dangers posed by counterfeit drugs. Individuals should pay close attention to the appearance and packaging of their prescription drugs for any unusual changes in shape, size, color, or sudden changes in the effectiveness of the drug.
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