A report published by the World Health Organization released in November 2017 estimated that 10% of medicines in developing countries are false or substandard, but that does not mean that counterfeit medicines do not also happen in developed countries. Here is a quick update on several international incidents that we want to make sure you know about:
As reported by SwissInfo, Switzerland’s Federal Customs Administration seized over 1,000 shipments of illegally imported medicines in 2017. While erectile dysfunction drugs were the most frequently confiscated at 59%, medically important prescription-only drugs such as antibiotics, antidepressants, and painkillers were the second most frequently seized at 16%. The number of seized shipments only slightly increased from 2016, but there was a noticeable shift in where the shipments were coming from. In 2016, most illegal shipments came from India, Singapore or Germany. Only 9% of shipments came from eastern Europe in 2016, but in 2017, that percentage had increased to 13% with shipments just from Poland increasing by 40%.
The Northumberland News reported that Ontario Provincial Police seized 20,000 pills that looked like they were 30 mg oxycodone pills. Testing showed that the pills were counterfeit and contained fentanyl. Police warned the public that some of these counterfeit pills might already be in circulation and stressed the importance of only taking medications prescribed by a physician.
Sadly, a 26-year-old woman living in Vancouver did not receive any such warning, and it cost her life. As reported by Westerly News, Samantha Louise Thomas passed away on January 13, 2018 after being given a pill by someone at a party. Mike Dickie, her grandfather, said she took the pill, “got into a taxi and died.” Constable Jarett Duncan of the Ucluelet RCMP stressed “At the end of the day you have no idea what’s been put in that. You have no idea how it’s been made, you don’t know where it’s been made and ultimately there too many cases of people throughout B.C. and Canada wide who have been dying due to fentanyl. I think it’s very tragic and this is something that is preventable if people decide not to use these recreational drugs.”