Fake drugs

As if life weren’t shitty enough, they’re faking over the counter drugs now. And in all the ruckus over the dangerous and illegal kind, these drugs are apparently slipping under the radar. It doesn’t hurt them at all that the fakery seems to be topnotch. I mean, look at these pictures.

Even when the differences are being pointed out, I can hardly tell the difference between the fakes and the real deal.

What’s worse is that these aren’t exotic or high-falutin’ medicines – they’re over the counter drugs that people most commonly self-medicate with. I, for instance, am a huge Alaxan and Tuseran fan. So when I first saw this news, I immediately reached out to the reporter I first heard it from, DZMM’s @zhandercayabyab.

According to Zhander, Melody Zamudio – Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Drug Regulation and Research – “Pag tinignan mo, pwedeng iba yung itsura niya, madaling madurog, iba yung amoy (When you look at the medicines, they look different; they crumble easily and smell strange). ”

Good tip right there, but that presupposes you’ve already bought the meds, right? So Ms. Zamudio added: “Ang importante po ay bumili po tayo sa mga lisensyadong botika, huwag pong sa tabi-tabi lang (What’s important is that we buy our medicines from licensed drugstores, and not just anywhere else).”

Ang importante po ay bumili po tayo sa mga lisensyadong botika, huwag pong sa tabi-tabi lang.

Think about that for awhile.

Precisely because these drugs are so commonplace, hardly anyone would bother to go to an actual drugstore just to get them. Instead, the most likely destination for anyone needing diarrhea relief would be the corner store. And sadly enough, that might be the place most likely to sell fake drugs.

If you suspect that the meds you bought might be fake, call the FDA Hotline at (02)807-8275.

For my money, ito dapat ang iniimbestigahan ng Kongreso. You see, fake drugs aren’t just some nebulous conceptual problem with a million different practical manifestations like, say, corruption. Nor is it something that can only be solved by moral renewal or public education. The problem with fake drugs is  straightforward and it is concrete. As such, it should be susceptible to concrete, legislated, solutions.

For instance, a statute could be crafted that would outlaw the selling of pharma anywhere other than appropriately licensed drugstores or dispensaries, and levying crippling fines on violators. In the early phases of the implementation of this hypothetical law, the challenge will – of course – be implementation and how that implementation can be subverted by corruption.

The downstream solution, therefore, is to devise a stronger fake drugs response protocol that will give law enforcement the proper training to identify a fake-drugs situation and to properly respond to them. Think rape kits and you’d be on the right track. Again, this is a solution that can be legislated. However (strictly sotto voce), since we can’t even get our act together on the RH Law, this is probably easier prescribed than actually implemented.

But it is a way forward that has the potential to develop into a systemic solution, rather than symptomatic relief. I mean, hotlines are great [here’s that hotline again: (02)807-8275], but if no serious effort is expended towards stemming the flow of these fake drugs into the market, then those hotlines are fighting a losing battle.

I understand that the war on dangerous drugs is taking up a lot of everyone’s time; it sure is hogging the headlines something fierce. But this problem with fake drugs is no less dangerous and yet, apart from @zhandercayabyab’s report back in November, I’ve hardly heard a peep about it in the news. I mean, hell. Go to the website of the Department of Health and you’ll see cop mascots getting more exposure than any information about fake drugs!

Seriously. How much does it cost to put up a page devoted to fake meds where people can actually get good information? Is a webpage like THIS so prohibitively expensive to put up? This state of affairs is deplorable, especially when you consider how much time is being spent talking about anything else.

Cop mascots. Sheesh.

 

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