In the past two weeks, the Partnership for Safe Medicines issued two SafeMeds Alerts about counterfeit insulin pen needles and herbal medication adulterated with dangerously high levels of undeclared pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom. It is tempting to disregard these alerts since the drugs were found in England, not the United States. But in today’s global environment, we are all at risk when these unsafe products move through the drug supply chain undetected.

Marvin D. Shepherd, Ph.D.Shepherd (sm)

In the past two weeks, the Partnership for Safe Medicines issued two SafeMeds Alerts about counterfeit insulin pen needles and herbal medication adulterated with dangerously high levels of undeclared pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom.  It is tempting to disregard these alerts since the drugs were found in England, not the United States.  But in today’s global environment, we are all at risk when these unsafe products move through the drug supply chain undetected.

Just because the drugs have only been reported in the Britain doesn’t necessary mean that they will NOT show up on our shores.  In fact, a quick online search returns numerous Internet sites selling the herbal medicine the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warns about with U.S. testimonials on the drugs effectiveness.

As healthcare professionals, consumers often rely on us to keep them safe.  Although most of the counterfeit drugs in America are not introduced into the “normal supply chain” that delivers medication to community and hospital pharmacies nationwide, counterfeiters are always trying to maximize their profits by infiltrating America’s supply chain.  That’s why it is important for all pharmacies to be aware of the dangers of counterfeit drugs, as well as to be able to recognize and help prevent counterfeit drugs from reaching patients.

The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) offers several valuable resources for healthcare professionals, including the new L.E.A.D.E.R.’s Guide for Pharmacists.  This free, online educational resource encourages pharmacists to take an active role in protecting the supply chain and their customers from counterfeit drugs in six steps:

  • Learn about contraband and counterfeit drugs
  • Educate your staff and customers
  • Avoid unsafe medicines and vendors
  • Decline suspicious offers
  • Evaluate your medicines
  • Report counterfeit drugs and suspicious vendors

To learn more about what healthcare professionals can do in the fight against counterfeit drugs, or to download your own copy of the L.E.A.D.E.R.’s Guide for Pharmacists, visit www.safemedicines.org.