Counterfeit and Stolen Pharmaceuticals Pose Growing Threat, Especially To Seniors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Leigh Purvis, MPA Director of Health Services Research AARP Public Policy Institute

Ms. Leigh Purvis

Leigh Purvis, MPA
Director of Health Services Research
AARP Public Policy Institute

MedicalResearch.com Editor’s Note: The May AARP Bulletin has a important article “Black Market Meds Are Flooding the Nation’s Pharmacies And Hospitals” by Joe Eaton, discussing the growing problem of counterfeit medications entering the US pharmaceutical supply chain. Ms. Leigh Purvis of the AARP Policy Institute discussed this important issue for the readers of MedicalResearch.com. Ms. Purvis’ areas of expertise include prescription drug pricing, biologic drugs, and Medicare prescription drug coverage. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is pharmaceutical theft and fraud a new or growing problem?

Ms. Purvis: I think it’s safe to say that pharmaceutical theft is a growing problem. Skyrocketing prices have made pharmaceuticals a lucrative target for criminals. Trucks transporting pharmaceuticals are a common target, although some thieves have stolen prescription drugs directly from manufacturers’ warehouses.

Pharmaceutical fraud is also a growing concern. FDA does a great deal to ensure the safety of US pharmaceuticals. However, problems can still arise, particularly when people purchase drugs online.

MedicalResearch.com: Who is most affected by counterfeit or rogue medications?

Ms. Purvis: Statistically speaking, older adults are the most affected by counterfeit or rogue medications, primarily because they use more prescription drugs than any other segment of the population. However, a better answer is that everyone is affected when there’s a possibility that prescription drugs that aren’t what they say they are. Virtually everyone will take a prescription drug at some point in his or her life—we all have an interest in ensuring that these products are safe.

MedicalResearch.com: What type of adverse side effects have been seen by counterfeit or rogue medications?

Ms. Purvis: If you look at FDA’s website you’ll see that recent counterfeit warnings have involved a wide variety of popular products. Most of them have not caused serious harm, although there is still plenty of cause for concern. For example, FDA discovered that a counterfeit version of an influenza medication actually contained an antibiotic that could have caused dangerous allergic reactions in certain patients. Another example involves counterfeit cancer medications that may have resulted in cancer patients not receiving the treatment they needed.  

MedicalResearch.com: What can readers do to protect themselves from receiving black market drugs?

Ms. Purvis: FDA is already working hard to ensure that US prescription drugs remain safe and effective. That said, there are certain commonsense precautions that people can take, most of which involve online pharmacies. For example, avoid websites that offer “too good to be true” prices or allow you to purchase prescription drugs without a prescription. FDA also has a lot of information available at:  www.fda.gov/besaferx<http://www.fda.gov/besaferx>.

MedicalResearch.com: Is it safe to buy medications online? Is it safe to buy medications online via Internet pharmacies without a prescription?

Ms. Purvis: It is largely considered safe to buy prescription medications online from a licensed, accredited pharmacy. You can check this information through your state board of pharmacy’s license database. You should also make sure that the pharmacy has a physical address and telephone number in the US, as well as a licensed pharmacist to answer any questions.

You should never purchase prescription medications online without a prescription. 

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Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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