Fake drugs are nothing new. In 2005, a 23-year-old man from Myanmar developed malaria. He was prescribed artesunate, a relatively common drug used to treat the ailment. In the days that followed, the young man slipped into a coma and eventually died, showing no response whatsoever to the treatment that followed. Officials in the region investigated the artesunate he was given and discovered that it only contained 20% of the active ingredient it was supposed to deliver.
A remote Himalayan hospital reported thousands of deaths in 2013 resulting from the prescription of an antibiotic that was found to possess no active ingredient. These stories are very commonplace even today and they are the reason why so many governments are fighting the proliferation of internet pharmacies.
Identifying a Rogue Internet Pharmacy
Not every pharmacy on the internet is out to sell you fake drugs. There are quite a number of legitimate drugstores online. But they are the minority. When it comes to spotting rogue pharmacies, internet pharmacy reviews encourage you to look out for the following signs:
- Rogue pharmacies do not ask for prescriptions even when you try to order for prescription drugs. They will permit you to buy whatever drug you want in any quantities you desire without ever demanding a doctor’s note.
- Rogue pharmacies have no legal accreditation authorizing them to sell medicine.
- Rogue pharmacies have a tendency to bombard potential clients with unsolicited emails.
- Rogue pharmacies typically hail from high-risk countries. They also ship worldwide.
Why the Country of Origin Matters?
That final point mentioned above confuses people. First of all, they do not realize that the origin of the medicines they order matters. Secondly, they do not know what makes one country more high risk than another.
Let it be understood here and now that the origin of every drug you buy matters. Yes, the manufacturer is also important. However, just because a pill features the logo of a respected manufacturer doesn’t mean you can trust it.
People create fake drugs all the time, medicine that is either ineffective or poisonous. Anyone that can make a fake pill can also forge a respected manufacturer’s logo.
When the argument over the legality of importing drugs from foreign pharmacies first gained momentum in the US, some lawmakers argued that Americans had the right to purchase their medicine from any country they wished because medical merchandise from the United States was too expensive.
When the FDA pointed out that they couldn’t verify the quality of pills that came from abroad, these same lawmakers suggested that the FDA should, at the very least, permit the importation of drugs from Canada.
After all, Canada had garnered quite the reputation for producing high-quality drugs that could be purchased cheaply. Internet pharmacy reviews were frequently praising Canadian pharmacies for this very reason.
However, Canada quickly leaped into this debate and assured US lawmakers that it had no way of ensuring the safety of the drugs it sent into the US. It went so far as to admit that many of the Canadian drugs US citizens purchased from Canadian internet pharmacies actually came from countries outside Canada.
As such, there was no way of proving their authenticity and quality. If this revelation is setting off alarm bells in your head, you’re not the only one.
Consumers must understand that the source of a drug is just as important as the identity of the pharmacy selling it. They should also realize that most pharmacies are rarely honest about the countries from which they acquire their drugs.
What Makes Certain Countries High Risk?
Countries do not receive “high risk” status because they were found to possess the highest number of rogue pharmacies in the world.
Rather, they gain “high risk” status because they have garnered a reputation for perpetrating various forms of fraud. This then encourages regulatory bodies to view every internet pharmacy that emerges from such countries with suspicion.
Some of the more interesting examples include:
Russia gained prominence because of the bride scams its citizens frequently executed. These scams featured women who would tempt men with potential romantic affairs only to ruin them.
So many dubious online pharmacies have come out of Russia.
India is interesting. On the one hand, it is home to a number of legitimate medical manufacturers and suppliers. In fact, a lot of international pharmacies use Indian suppliers to acquire generic pills.
This is because drugs in India are really cheap. However, India is also associated with a lot of online fraud. Indian scammers use malware to remotely access the computers of unsuspecting consumers.
Some of these conmen embed their scams in internet pharmacies, using the allure of cheap drugs to steal credit card information. The lack of proper pharmaceutical regulation has allowed such activities to thrive.
China makes a lot of counterfeit products. This is hardly a secret, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that they also make a lot of counterfeit medicine.
This alone should tell you why so many internet pharmacy reviews call China a High-Risk country and always warn against online drugstores that get their merchandise from the country.
Any conversation about high-risk countries is also bound to mention Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, and various other East European and Asian countries. But Russia, China, and India always lead the pack.
The WHO has noted on more than one occasion that countries which do not regulate the importation and exportation of pharmaceuticals encourage the emergence of rogue pharmacies and this makes such nations thriving sources of counterfeit medicine.
Organizations like the FDA have done what they can to warn against medicine hailing from places like Bangladesh. But too many consumers buy too many drugs without first determining their countries of origin.
It should be noted that ScamAdviser describes high-risk countries as those nations that the International Banking Federation has included in their list of countries that have experienced unprecedented growth in the area of internet fraud.
It has been suggested on more than one occasion that banks and other financial institutions hold the key to clamping down on the proliferation of counterfeit pills. This is because the majority of rogue internet drugstores rely heavily on credit and debit cards to transact with consumers.
If governments have failed to craft regulations that can prevent the importation of drugs from high-risk countries, it might be time for banks to step up. They have the power to essentially squeeze rogue pharmacies out of the equation, shutting every financial pipeline high-risk countries use to export medical items and giving legitimate medical sites some breathing room to thrive.