What is Fake Drugs
A Typical Open Drug Market in Nigeria

If you are reading this article from a developing country there is a 17 % chance that the last medication you took was fake, such is the level of inhumanity, fraud, and malevolence that currently characterize the pharmaceuticals drug market in Africa.

The continent is also saturated with Chinese quacks exploiting the vulnerable by selling Chinese food supplement as treatment for a wide range of infections and diseases including HIV and cancer. So unregulated is the drug market in developing countries that, virtually anything and everything is sold as remedies and treatment for unimaginable conditions. The black market in counterfeit drugs is worth billions, but it does untold damage to the health of the poorest populations.

According to information available on the Essential Medicines and Health Products Information portal of the World Health Organization, the proliferation of fake drug in Nigeria has affected the credibility of the Healthcare system which can result in very harmful effects on consumers leading to illness, disabilities and even death.


What is Fake Drugs?

Fake drugs  also referred to as counterfeit drugs  can be defined as  illegally produced drugs or pharmaceutical preparations  that may be contaminated or contain the wrong or no active ingredient at all. They sometimes have the right active ingredient but at the wrong dose. Fake drugs are illegal and may be harmful to your health.

Fake drugs and their effects on the Nigerian nation and her citizenry cannot be overemphasized. In this article, we set out to provide the public with a clear picture of the damages and consequences of the lax in regulation in developing countries especially Africa and Nigeria in particular, as we intensify the fight against fake and counterfeit products in our quest for a safer and healthier society.


How to Spot Fake Drugs Vs Real

A consumer, may not have access to most of the test equipment used by regulatory bodies to verify the identity of a drug product but here are simple guidelines that can help identify a fake Drugs pill;


Check the Drugs Packaging: This is the simplest and the easiest method to check the authenticity of   Drugs. Check the packaging for details like unusual fonts, print color, and missing logo. Analyze whether it appears the same or different from the one you have used before.


No Breakage in the Seal: A drug pill packet or container that comes with a security seal should not be damaged. Look for a crack or breaks in the sealing tape.


 Check the Drugs Dosage Form: Look for dissimilarities in physical appearance of the drug like its color, size, uniformity, consistency, shape, etc.


Physical Attributes of the pill: As stated by World Health Organization, the common physical attributes that need to be looked out in medicine tablets are;


  • Small pieces of tablets, excessive powder at the bottom of the medicine container, or brittle and crumbly capsule spilling powder.


  • Cracks in the tablets or capsule.


  • The appearance of crystal on the container walls or on the medicine tablets.


  • Softening or hardening of the medicines.


  • Swelling, spots or discoloration of the tablets or capsule.


 Allergies / Unexpected Side Effects from using Drugs: Most of the medicines have side effects. It is important to consult your doctor before the usage to keep a check on allergies arising from it. If you notice certain unexpected or harmful side effects from your medication, report to your doctor immediately.


Price of Drugs: If the price of a Drugs is suddenly far cheaper than the usual rate, double check the product as there may be a chance that the fake companies wanted to lure customers by providing medicines at much cheaper rates.


Verify Online or SMS: Many countries including Nigeria have unique methods for the verification of the genuineness of pills using authentication code or other online portals to confirm the authenticity of the pills being purchased.



Fake Drugs Statistics  In Nigeria and Africa 

The Current Picture

  1. Nigeria is the world’s largest market for fake and counterfeit drugs among developing nations of the world according to NAFDAC


  1. Each year, more than 120,000 Africans are killed by Fake Malaria drugs


  1. 10- 30% of drugs and pharmaceutical products sold in developing countries are fakes and counterfeits


  1. India and china are the major manufacturers and suppliers of fake and counterfeit drugs globally


  1. According to the world Health Organization (WHO) 16% of fake / counterfeit drugs contain the wrong active ingredient


  1. About 33 % of all anti-malarial drugs which find their way into patent medicine stores, pharmacies, clinics and hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa are fake.


  1. A recent study which evaluated the quality of drugs globally found that overall, 9.1% of drugs worldwide failed the basic quality control tests. The study also reported that the drug failure rate in Africa was 16.6%, about one in every six pills.


  1. According to the International Criminal Policing Association otherwise known as (Interpol) fake and counterfeit drugs kill 1 million people every year.


  1. Over 30% of counterfeit drugs currently being consumed globally are placebos and do not contain any active ingredients whatsoever.


  1. As at 2014, 10,603 websites were selling counterfeit medicines on the internet

See: Online Pharmacy In Nigeria

List of fake drugs in Nigeria and how to identify fake drugs in Nigeria

Below is a list of drugs most frequently counterfeited by Chinese and Indian companies most times with the active connivance of Nigerians and other Africans.


  1. Beecham Ampiclox – Check out for authentication code


  1. Augumentin 625mg- Beecham – Check for authentication code


  1. Fansider – Fansider in Nigeria is now Swider check for authentication code


  1. Amalar – From Elbe Check for authentication code before you buy


  1. Quinine Sulphate 300mg Batch Number: F4387, manufactured by Novadina Pharmaceutical Ltd is fake


  1. Buscopan – Any Buscopan that is not bitter and tastes like chalk is most likely cassava powder talk to your pharmacist.


  1. Fucin tablet – Go for trusted brands with codes many fake products in the market


  1. Viagra – The market is flooded with fakes and counterfeits patronize only registered and reputable pharmacies. Pharmaceutical Security Institute reports that 37% of all fake medicines seized are erectile dysfunction drugs, and unsurprisingly Viagra is now the second most counterfeited drug in the world


  1. Fubact -A cream – When you buy this cream look for inconsistencies reject any one with funny spelling or inscriptions.


  1. Coartem – The active ingredients on the sachet of fake Coartem tablets is wrongly written as artmethe/umfantrnewhile the manufacturer is written as The use of fake Coartem tablets may result in poisoning (due to toxic substances), treatment failure, development of resistance and even death.See: Health Websites In Nigeria

List of Non ACT antimalaria drugs banned in many countries but still in circulation In Nigeria and African countries   include:

  1. Alaxin 60mg tablet (dihydroartémisinine)
  2. Alaxin oral suspension (dihydroartémisinine)
  3. Amodiaquine 200mg
  4. Arinate 100mg tablet (artésunate)
  5. Arinate 50mg tablet (artésunate)
  6. Arsumax 50mg tablet (artésunate)
  7. Artemax 60mg tablet (dihydroartémisinine)
  8. Artémédine 40mg capsule (artemether)
  9. Artémédine 50mg tablet (artemether)
  10. Artenam 50mg tablet (artemether)
  11. Artenam 60mg tablet (artemether)
  12. Artésiane 300mg child powder oral suspension (artemether)
  13. Artésunate 100mg compressed
  14. Artésunate 50mg tablet
  15. Artexin 60mg tablet (dihydroartémisinine)
  16. Camoquin 200mg tablet (amodiaquine)
  17. Camoquin 200mg tablet (amodiaquine)

See: List Of Banned Drugs, Food and Cosmetics In Nigeria


special Mention dora and fake drugs
Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili                             Pharmacist, Pharmacologist, Erudite Scholar and former Director-General of the National Agency for food and drug Administration and control

The fight against counterfeiting is a fight that must not be lost!!!!


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Public Health Ng
Public Health Nigeria an Interdisciplinary public health movement focused on health education, advancing fair public health policies, promoting fitness, healthy diets, responsible behavior, community health and general well-being.

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