Holograms can only save us from Fake Drugs !!!

Deepali took an off on last Sunday again. Is it not really bugging when your maid does not turn up on a holiday? Moreover, the excuse that she gave was the same every week. Now, we (me and my room mate) were at the receiving end and decided to ask what exactly was her problem. When she came on Monday we pounced on her with our volley of questions. She said that her 10 years old son is suffering from fever for the last three weeks. “Medicines are going on, but no sign of recovery”, with these words she burst out. We tried to console her but at the back of our mind thought it to be a cooked up story. But, later when she told that she was even ready to leave the job for her son, the matter seemed to be serious.

We decided to accompany her along with her son to the nearest hospital. One of the senior doctors over here was my acquaintance. As Deepali was unable to speak Hindi, I explained the whole thing to the doctor. The doctor asked for the prescription. Deepali being ignorant did not carry the prescription, but instead took the medicines with her. The doctor checked the boy thoroughly and said that he was suffering from a kind of viral fever. Then, he went for the medicines, looked are re-looked them with meticulous attention. The words that followed from him startled us.

“These are all fake drugs”, he said. For a moment we were bamboozled. I got back my sense and uttered ‘Counterfeit Drugs???’ Deepali said, but her husband bought them himself from a renowned store. The doctor replied that the medicine dealers themselves do not know the aspects of difference between authentic and fake drug. Not to talk about the layman. He shows us, “See there is no hologram on the Crocin Stripe. Let me show you an original one.” We compared the two varieties. To our surprise, we found out that except for that ‘Hologram’ everything the fake drug was a complete mirror image of the original. He too prescribed Crocin for the boy but asked Deepali to check for hologram/metallic stripe for authenticity this time.

Within a couple of days the boy was all right and we got Deepali back regularly on service.

The episode came to an end, but I started my research on Counterfeit drugs. After having surfed Internet and read several journals, I found out that a parallel market of fake drugs ran with that of the original drug market. In fact, today the counterfeit pharmaceuticals are flooding hospitals, web sites, pharmacies and street medical stores round the world. Visibly indistinguishable, they pose tremendous threat to the health and lives of people at large.

These fake drugs have found an extensive inroad into the developing world, affecting millions of people and plaguing public health. According to the Center for Medicines in the Public Interest, Counterfeit drug sales will reach $75 billion globally in 2010, a more than 90 percent increase from 2005.

Another report states that Drug-resistant strains of malaria and tuberculosis (TB) are rampant in Myanmar. They are now spreading rapidly towards Thailand. Coming to the India, our country has emerged as the leading distributor of spurious drugs. It has a share of 75% in the total fake drugs supplied all over the world. However, health ministry estimates that only 5% of the drugs in India are spurious.

Much has been written about the problems of the supply of pharmaceutical counterfeits. Common topics include inadequate laws, lack of enforcement, and the absence of criminal penalties for counterfeiters. But there is least discussion on how general public can fight this serious issue. People like Deepali or her child can’t wait till there are special laws formed to combat this problem. So what should the customers do to avoid fake medicine?

The enormous growth of spurious drug industry and its disastrous impact has alarmed the led the genuine drug’s manufacturers. Companies like GlaxoSmithKline HealthCare and Piramal Healthcare to take vital measures to ensure that their consumers get authentic drugs. In India, the spurious drug’s market has grown at a deadly speed. In India, only less than 1% of the drugs manufactured are tested. At present, each of the 26 government labs test 2,500 drug samples annually. ASSOCHAM estimates the market for counterfeit drugs is growing at a frightening rate of 25%.

The only tip to buy genuine medicine is to check for hologram on the foil of the drugs like Crocin, Iodex and Phensedyl.