For as long as pharmacies existed, there has been some sort of counterfeit medications or drugs. It could have been the snake oil salesman on his horse and wagon promising big results or some other gimmick. Luckily for back then, snake oil actually has some remedies for ailments and the side effects are not fatal. Unfortunately for modern day consumers, counterfeit drugs are much more lethal and dangerous proving that anti-counterfeit strategies are direly needed.
The Pharmaceutical Industry and Counterfeit Drugs
Counterfeiters have evolved from horse wagons to street dealers to now fake online businesses. As they have gotten more tech savvy, their counterfeit drugs have also got more acute, which makes it hard for the average every day consumer to discern.
The Rise in Counterfeit Drugs
Counterfeit drugs have been ruining lives for a long time, but it has significantly increased in the past few years. Between 2019 and 2021 alone, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states that the number of counterfeit pills with fentanyl increased almost 430 percent.
Fentanyl is an opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. A small dosage of it can be dangerous, if not lethal. Drug counterfeiters lace pills with it to increase their overall profits. They can market the pills as legitimate, but the majority of the ingredients are actually fentanyl and not real.
While the globe was experiencing a health pandemic, the drug pandemic increased, in part, due to COVID-19.
Two Pandemics at the Same Time
March 2020 is a date many people will remember for the rest of their lives. It marked the start of COVID-19 with lockdowns and social distancing. Due to the increase of COVID cases, many hospitals around the world had to or saw a decrease of patient admissions to accommodate those affected with COVID.
This led to people looking for alternative and or cheaper drugs to help them. Sometimes, these individuals were looking for the real brand medications, but did not know how to spot those slight differences in the labels or the pills themselves.
Real People, Fake Drugs
Many lives have been lost due to counterfeit medications that were either bought “off the streets” or via a fake online pharmacy. These purchases of fake prescription pills span a wide range of consumers and don’t just affect one specific demographic.
Though this blog article just features three lives that were taken by counterfeit drugs, there are a lot more families that have lost loved ones.
Alissa Saunders, Nursing Assistant
Alissa Saunders was a 22 year old who was a certified nursing assistant. Her mother described her as “an old soul” who worked very hard. The drug she was found with looked to be Xanax, a drug used to help with anxiety. However, in the autopsy, there was no trace of it, but rather fentanyl. According to the news report, detectives found evidence that these drugs were from the prescription pills black market.
Jake Beddoe, Traveling Consultant
Jake Beddoe was a 25 year old traveling consultant who joined the Peace Corps right after graduating university. When COVID-19 hit, he moved back home to follow lockdown orders and to be with family; however, the pandemic caused him severe anxiety. To handle this, he took what he thought was Xanax.
Just like other Xanax consumers, Jake Beddoe had cut the pill into little pieces as to not consume too much of a drug. However, this counterfeit pill was laced with fentanyl and just that small dose proved to be lethal.
Saunders and Beddoe were found with counterfeit Xanax, but it is not the only pill that is faked.
Alex Capelouto, Full-Ride Academic Scholarship University Student
Alex Capelouto was a 20 year old university student who suffered from anxiety and depression. A few days before Christmas, investigators revealed that she requested oxycodone from a drug dealer. Her father believes she took the counterfeit drug to help her sleep, but she didn’t know it was laced with fentanyl.
Today, Alex’s Capelouto’s father fights to secure more anti-counterfeit solutions legislatively as well as promote awareness of the danger of buying prescription drugs through illegitimate ways.
How to Fight Against Fake Drugs
There are a variety of counterfeit drugs in the system. Some counterfeiters use real drugs that have expired long ago, some mix drugs together as seen with the fentanyl, and some give a completely different drug and place a fake label on the bottle.
It is hard for the average consumer to spot the differences between what is real and fake or even know if a drug is expired if the label has been changed or forged. Pharmaceutical companies can help their consumer know the difference by spreading awareness of the dangers of counterfeit medications as well as implementing anti-counterfeit solutions.
This not only protects medication consumers, but it also protects the brand and legitimate products of the companies.
The U-NICA Anti-Counterfeit Solutions
U-NICA offers brand protection and product protection on its mission is to raise and spread awareness of the threat of fake drugs. The anti-counterfeit solutions are custom-made for each pharmaceutical company because there is no “one size fits all.”
Through the U-NICA Protection Circle, strategy, technology, operation, and intelligence is combined in one holistic approach. Each strategy is scalable and easy-to-implement. U-NICA offers two suites that are anti-counterfeit focused: scryptoTRACE® suite and plastoTRACE® suite.
Under the scryptoTRACE® suite, companies can incorporate the Digital Security Label™ where anyone in the supply chain from manufacturing to the end consumer can use a smartphone app to verify the authenticity of the product.
Contact U-NICA today to learn more about implementing an anti-counterfeit solution for your brand and or product. Or read more about protecting the pharma industry against counterfeit drugs in the blog.