How To Spot Fake Medicines: A Consumer's Guide

How To Spot Fake Medicines: A Consumer's Guide
18 Apr 2024
10 mins
Table Of Content
How To Spot Fake Medicines: A Consumer's Guide

    Have you ever wondered whether the very pills or medicines you use every day for your health concerns might worsen your condition? You heard it right—fake medicines containing harmful adulterants that can worsen your health instead of improving it. You might be thinking, how can I safeguard myself from these kinds of drugs? Your question is right, and here is a brief guide to address all your questions about fake medicines and ways to protect your health from them. Want to learn more? Continue reading for more information.

    What is a counterfeit medicine?


    Counterfeit medicines can be produced by individuals other than the original manufacturer, copying the product without the necessary authorization or rights. It is illegal to produce and sell these products, and they are also a major health concern for our society. They may differ in size, shape, color, and packaging  quality when compared to the original drugs. But they are enough to deceive our eyes.


    For example, if we search for Xanax, Ativan, Adderall, or Ambien medicine, it will open hundreds of websites that could offer it without asking for a prescription.

    Are you taking real medicine or something else?


    According to the World Health Organization, about 10.5% of medicines worldwide are considered substandard or falsified. Among these, antimalarial and antibiotic medicines are often reported as counterfeit medicines. These counterfeit medicines are often manufactured with incorrect doses or toxic, harmful ingredients that pose serious health risks to individuals. They closely resemble authentic medicines, leading to confusion and making us believe they are the legitimate medications prescribed by our doctors. We're all being deceived here, and we need to double-check when it comes to our health. Ultimately, our health is what suffers from these fraudulent activities. 

    How do you check fake medicine?


    In the rush to treat diseases and meet the high demand for obtaining medicines, we often forget to verify the authenticity of the medicine that our body truly needs to treat the condition. However, taking the time to assess the authenticity of the medication is crucial, as it can aid in a faster recovery and protect us from the harmful substances found in counterfeit drugs. Here are some of the top 5 ways to check the originality of the medicines.


    1. Check the package for conditions, spelling, or grammatical errors.
    2. Check the manufacturer details and verify the expiry dates on the label with the details on the outer packaging of the medicines.
    3. Check the medicine's appearance, color, and smell with your previously used standard medicine.
    4. Consult your doctor immediately if you do not feel any improvement or experience any side effects during or before the medication.
    5. Report suspicious medicine to the National Medicines Regulatory Authority.

    Fake Medicines In India: A Growing Concern For Public Health


    India ranks third in the world for its pharmaceutical industry. However, there has been a simultaneous rise in the production of counterfeit medicines, alongside the growth of the health sector. According to the study conducted by ASSOCHAM in 2022, it is estimated that around 25% of India medicines are counterfeit drugs, which shows the prevalence of this emerging risk in our own country.


    Some of the fake medicines seized by DCA officials are labeled under the names of reputed companies like Sun Pharma, Glenmark, Aristo Pharmaceuticals, and Torrent Pharma. It is also found that three variants of antibiotics (Mpod 200, Cefoxim CV, and MEXCLAV 625 tablets) are falsely labeled under a non-existent company named Meg Lifesciences.


    It is estimated that about Rs 352 crore out of Rs 14 trillion drugs are contributed as a fake drug in the Indian domestic drug market.

    What are the potential health issues of fake drugs?


    Fake drugs not only interfere with the effectiveness of medication, but they can also cause severe health issues for individuals. These drugs may contain substances like chalk, starch, and, in the worst cases, harmful ingredients such as mercury, arsenic, rat poison, or even cement. This can delay treatment and worsen the health of individuals. Fake medication can also cause life-threatening allergic reactions, organ damage, and antibiotic resistance in individuals, making it more difficult to treat diseases.

    Drug Scams No More! Scan for Safety


    The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has issued a notice to prevent the sale of fake medicine in India. It emphasizes that every medicine should be shipped with a QR code that displays essential details for consumers when scanned. The QR code will contain the information which is given below:


    1. It should contain the unique product code.
    2. It should contain the generic and brand name of the drug.
    3. It should contain the proper address of the manufacturer
    4. It should contain a batch number, date of manufacture, and expiry
    5. It should contain a manufacturing license number.

    Advantages of QR code:


    1. It helps to provide patients with up-to-date drug and prescription information.
    2. It helps to maintain the authenticity of pharmaceutical drugs.
    3. It helps to provide a convenience and quality service to the patients.
    4. It can help prevent the sale of expired medicines.
    5. It is user-friendly, and anyone can scan it with their smartphone.


    Travel Smart: Tips To Avoid Buying Fake Medicine

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding the purchase of medicines while traveling to other countries or regions. This is because low- and middle-income countries are estimated to sell a high volume of counterfeit medication to patients. Therefore, the CDC suggests following specific tips to avoid buying fake medicines while traveling. Here are some tips they recommend for purchasing medicines while traveling:


    1. Try to buy medicine in licensed pharmacies and ask them to give a receipt.
    2. As a pharmacist, you need a better option that is similar to your current medicine.
    3. Check whether the medicine is in its original packaging.
    4. Check whether the package has poor printing quality.

    To Whom should we report against fake medicines?


    To eradicate false medication, various organizations work together and share their reports with each other. These reports are periodically published by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment. Here are the organizations that receive the false medicine reports:


    1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): You can dial 1800-180-5533 to raise a complaint against the fake medicine in FDA.
    2. Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO): It is a national regulatory body in India for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and medicine. You can file a complaint against the fake medicine in the CDSCO portal.
    3. Medical Council of India (MCI):  You can file your complaint against fake drugs through the online portal of the Medical Council of India.


    If you find that the medicine you got is fake or have any concerns about the medicine you bought, inform your healthcare professional and raise a complaint against the manufacturer by informing the organizations mentioned above. It is our duty to protect our health and the health of those around us.



    Spotting fake medicine is essential to protect our health and also to improve the treatment outcomes of patients. It is illegal to manufacture and sell a medicine that is substandard and contains harmful adulterants. Patients are requested to check the medicine they are buying either physically or through an online platform. Drug authenticity should be strictly assessed, and punishments need to be increased to prevent counterfeit medicines. Organizations need to establish and raise the security of e-pharmacies to ensure the safety and quality of the drugs. Initiatives like establishing a QR code by CIDCO can help prevent fake medicines and manufacturing in the health sector. Further improvement and initiative are much needed to develop safe and secure healthcare that offers wellness and protection of patients without any corruption.

    Written by
    Ishwarya RMedical Content Writer
    AboutIshwary R is a Medical Content Writer at MrMed. She completed her PG from the University of Madras, Chennai. She did her final year project in CSIR-CLRI, Adyar, entitled Studies on production of Biosurfactant by bacillus subtilis using Leather industry bioproduct. She did her offline internship and learned clinical Laboratory skills in Billroth hospital and her online internship in SS Healthcare. She strengthened her skills in research, writing, editing, and proofreading medical content, blogs, and scientific articles.
    Tags :Spot fake medicineFake medicineFake medicine in India