Image courtesy of Pacific Northwest Safety and Health Center University of Washington.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a disease that obstructs airways, limiting breathing and causing cardiopulmonary issues. Patients with COPD are likely to suffer severe shortness of breath and are more susceptible to upper respiratory infections, including flu and pneumonia, both of which can be deadly for them. Chronic conditions like COPD are often expensive to treat, and COPD patients may seek to find cheaper medications from risky fake online pharmacies which would provide them with substandard and unapproved medication and poor treatment. But patients can shop safely online and find affordable authentic medicines.
According to a report just published by Men’s Health Network “Breath Easy, Your Lungs and COPD” COPD is “the third leading cause of death in the United States, with 12 million Americans diagnosed with COPD, and another 12 million who suffer from the disease without knowing they have the disease.” Additionally they report that 120,000 men and women die of COPD a year in the United States, and approximately 85-90% of COPD deaths are the result of cigarette smoking.
The symptoms of COPD as outlined in the Men’s Health Network Report are: shortness of breath (Dyspnea), a chronic cough, and wheezing. COPD occurs in two main forms, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. There is no cure for COPD, but symptoms can be ameliorated by careful treatment. Unfortunately COPD sufferers are particularly endangered by common illnesses that are easily treatable in a healthy patient. Colds, influenza, pneumonia, and other lung infections can be a death sentence for a COPD sufferer.
Flu season can be a dangerous time for COPD patients. The illness, which can range from mild to serious for the average adult, can be lethal for a COPD sufferer. Because of this, those with COPD should seek vaccination for seasonal flu, and medical treatment if they become ill with the flu.
However, if a COPD sufferer makes the mistake of turning to a fake online pharmacy to seek a flu vaccination or flu cure, they could be signing their own death warrant. Drug counterfeiters regard flu season as an opportunity to make money selling fake vaccines and flu treatments. In February 2013, during the height of flu season, the FDA posted a public warning concerning fraudulent flu treatments and vaccines for sale on the Internet. As Gary Coody, the FDA’s national health fraud coordinator said in the warning “As any health threat emerges, fraudulent products appear almost overnight. Right now, so-called ‘alternatives’ to the flu vaccine are big with scammers.”
Tamiflu, the only antiviral drug approved for treatment of active flu cases, has turned up counterfeit repeatedly on the Internet. In 2010, the FDA warned consumers about counterfeit versions of Tamiflu being sold in the Internet, and in 2012, the FDA sent a warning letter to Pronet, an umbrella company operating hundreds of pharmacy websites for, among other infractions, selling “generic” versions of Tamiflu not approved for sale in the United States. At present, there is no approved generic of Tamiflu available on the market. What the Pronet pharmacy network was selling was probably not Tamiflu. If COPD sufferers had mistakenly visited one of the hundreds of pharmacies in the Pronet pharmacy network, who knows what they may have ended up with if they tried to purchase “generic Tamiflu.”
COPD produces asthma-like symptoms in sufferers. As a result, COPD sufferers may seek asthma inhalers to treat their breathlessness. Unfortunately, a chronic illness like asthma is considered a recurring revenue opportunity by drug counterfeiters. Counterfeit asthma inhalers have infiltrated the secure supply chain in the United Kingdom, and fake asthma inhalers have been seized by customs authorities in New Zealand and the European Union. In the United States warnings have been issued about stolen shipments of asthma inhalers that appeared on the market many months after their expiration date.
COPD makes those who suffer from it more prone to lung infections. As such, they may seek antibiotics from cheap online sources. There are real risks buying antibiotics online. In addition to neglecting being examined by a doctor, you cannot be certain the dosage will be effective or that the drugs are genuine. Counterfeit antibiotics have been found by the FDA in 2011 for sale in 6 states.
The risk of receiving substandard medication from a fake online pharmacy is extremely high. Online pharmacies that are not in compliance with FDA rules and regulations are not constrained by rules designed to ensure medicine safety and genuineness. Counterfeit drugs are a cheap option for online drug sellers but for patients they are at best useless and at worst, toxic. Counterfeit drugs have been found to contain toxic metals, road paint, brick dust, rat poison, and banned pharmaceuticals. In many cases the counterfeiter’s only concern is to produce a pill that has the same appearance as the drug it is imitating. Effective treatment does not enter into the equation.
In the last year, the FDA has sent warning letters to the hundreds of pharmacies under the Pronet umbrella, and four different Canadian online pharmacy operations, Mark’s Marine, Best Price Rx, Northwest Pharmacy, and Canada Drugs. In all cases the online pharmacies were warned for selling drugs that either was not approved for sale in the United States, or, in the case of Pronet, was a drug (generic Tamiflu) that does not even exist. Marks Marine was warned for selling clobazam, a dangerous anti-seizure medication that is not approved for sale in the United States, among other drugs. Best Price Rx and Northwest Pharmacy were warned for selling alitretinoin, which must be administered under careful doctor’s supervision. It is only approved for the treatment of skin lesions associated Kaposi’s sarcoma. Canada Drugs was warned for selling, among other things, the acne treatment isotretinoin, which was pulled from the US market due to episodes of suicidal ideation in those who took it.
COPD sufferers can protect themselves from fake drug scammers by sticking to online pharmacies that require prescriptions and follow all US laws. Our Save Money Safely on Your Prescriptions from Online Pharmacies outlines the steps COPD sufferers can take to protect themselves from fake drugs. Asthma medication in particular is easy to find at affordable prices online, as long as you choose VIPPS-approved pharmacies to buy from. You also can save money on treatments by shopping at your local pharmacy and buying generic medications when possible. Our price comparison demonstrates that it is actually cheaper to buy genuine generic medication from verified sources than to purchase purported name-brand drugs from questionable websites offering discounts. By being a smart shopper, COPD sufferers can protect themselves from the scourge of counterfeit drugs.
By S. Imber