The Menace of fake medicines is a global challenge to public health and Dubai is not immune from its deleterious effects. The fact most supplements, do not need regulatory approval to get to market, as long as they don’t contain a controlled drug or substance presents a unique opportunity for counterfeiters and bad actors.
The global supplement industry was estimated to be worth $123 billion in 2019 and growing. Specific products often spike in popularity when they are endorsed by celebrities or powerful marketing campaigns. Counterfeiters then ride the wave with fake products, the contents of which are a mystery. Over the last decade, Dubai has seen strong growth in all sectors through the addition of new attractions and landmarks this has attracted millions of people to the gulf country many of whom will rely on medicines in Dubai for their health needs during their stay.
Nutritional supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports nutrition products, natural food supplements, and other related products used to boost the nutritional content of the diet. Nutritional supplements are used for many purposes. They can be added to the diet to boost overall health and energy; to provide immune system support and reduce the risks of illness and age-related conditions; to improve performance in athletic and mental activities, and support the healing process during illness and disease. However, most of these products are treated as food and not regulated as drugs.
How to Spot Fake Drugs and Supplements In Dubai
According to a report published by the World Health Organization, one in ten medical products circulating in low- and middle-income countries are estimated to be either substandard or falsified, endangering the lives of millions. Following reported issues related to fake and substandard drugs, the government packaged new measures to better regulate the pharmaceutical industry. Legislation, currently under review, will charge anyone caught selling counterfeit medicine with up to five years in prison and a Dh1 million fine. The laws will also serve up to a year in jail and a Dh500,000 penalty to those found guilty of peddling poisonous substances.
According to Authorities, new laws have to be introduced because Dubai has become a hub for pharmaceutical companies and this increases the chances of counterfeiting. The existing UAE legislation for the pharma industry dates back more than 30 years to 1983. In addition, The Government has also introduced TruScan, a new device that will detect counterfeit medicine consignments in seven seconds and is expected to curb the passage of fake drugs through the UAE ports or any such sales within the country. Fake drugs are estimated to be causing losses worth millions of dollars to the government and pharmaceutical companies in the UAE.
Here are some ways in which you can ascertain drug authenticity:
- Check the seal
The security seal, especially in bottled medicines, should not be damaged or tampered with. Look for a crack or break in the sealing tape before making the purchase. If you feel it is broken or tampered with, do not buy it.
- Check the packaging
This is perhaps the simplest method. If it is a medicine you have purchased previously, look at the font, spelling, and the colour. Most often, one or all of these are wrong in a fake medicine.
- Visual inspection of medicines
As stated by the World Health Organisation, the common physical attributes that need to be looked up in medicine tablets are:
- Small pieces of tablets or excessive powder at the bottom of the medicine container;
- Cracks in the tablets;
- The appearance of crystals on the container walls or the medicine tablets;
- Softening or hardening of the medicines;
- Swelling, spots, or discolouration of the tablets
If there is a sudden dip in the price of the medicines, then be sure to double-check. The changes in such a case can mean that it is a spurious drug. Medicines are usually manufactured in comparatively the same manner; hence, changes in the pricing of one brand can greatly affect all other pharmaceutical companies. So beware!
- Unexpected side-effects or allergies
The immediate impact that counterfeit drugs can have on us is an allergic reaction or a sudden unexpected side-effect. The spurious drugs may contain incorrect substances, improper dosage, or hazardous substances, which do not elicit any therapeutic effect. If you experience any unforeseen side-effects, stop consuming the medicine immediately and check with your doctor. ALSO READ: How to Identify Fake Drugs in Nigeria