What are illegal medicines?
The terms used for illegal medicines also vary: “counterfeit”, “fake”, “adulterated”, “non-compliant”, “sub-standard” medicines, etc.
In general, a distinction can be made between three categories of illegal medicines:
- counterfeit or falsified medicines
- the marketing under an existing brand of a medicine of unknown origin (fake “Viagra” fake “Tramadol”, a powerful analgesic)
- imitation medicines
- good quality medicines from countries that do not recognise the European and US patents
- medicines of unknown origin of questionable quality, containing or not the correct active substances with the right or wrong dosages
- medicines containing unexpected or unknown substances fabricated by chemical synthesis (such as new psychoactive substances)
- medicines that cannot be found on the official market (e.g., female viagra)
- “sub-standard” or “non-compliant” medicines
- authentic medicines that do not meet the standards, which have escaped the controls and that are siphoned off and put back on sale (e.g. expired medicines).
What are the most common illegal medicines?
- medicines against erectile dysfunction (such as Viagra)
- diet pills
- anabolic steroids and growth hormones (used by bodybuilders to increase muscle mass)
- painkillers (such as Tramadol, a strong painkiller).
In developing countries, illegal medicines generally fall into the category of anti-infectives, that is to say medicines that fight against infections caused by bacteria (tuberculosis, meningitis), viruses (HIV) or parasites (malaria).
This is a very serious public health issue because people die from a disease that was incorrectly treated. In addition, the consumption of sub-standard medicines containing low doses of active substances increases the risk of antibiotic resistance, and in this case even genuine medicines become ineffective.
What are the risks of illegal medicines for health?
- they may not contain any active substance (e.g. sugar)
- the expected substances are present but not in the correct dosages
- they may contain substances that vary from the original composition
- they may contain derivatives of the original substances, the effect of which is uncertain
- they may contain impurities that are potentially toxic to vital organs such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas.
How to avoid illegal medicines?
Most illegal medicines are sold over the Internet.
Only pharmacies open to the public who have a site notified to the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AFMPS) can sell medicines over the Internet.
The Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) has created an awareness-raising website about medicines sold over the Internet.