Dangers of Using Cheap or Counterfeit Medicines for PD

Parkinson’s disease is the chronic progressive neurodegenerative disorder that robs you of the ability to control your own body. It presents with a myriad of symptoms which exhibit varying degrees of motor impairment including tremors, rigidity, stiffness, and loss of muscle control and coordination. Parkinson’s disease medicines can be  expensive and the financial impact can be devastating in the long term, especially if health insurance is an issue. It is not uncommon for any chronic disease sufferer to seek alternate sources, especially if the more expensive branded medicine may be available at a cheaper rate.

However, the possibility should be kept in mind that the drug obtained from such sources is cheaper because it is a counterfeit or fake. Counterfeit medicines are falsified sub-standard medicines and deliberately appears to be a genuine as well as authorised product. They have not been appropriately evaluated to justify their safety, efficacy, and quality as per the federal drug law and are hence considered to be potentially harmful. This could mean that it may not have all the necessary ingredients, the proportions may be wrong, or it may contain harmful substances. In spite of taking the drugs as prescribed by the doctor, the patient may have slow or no improvement at all or may even deteriorate drastically.

Counterfeit and Cheap Parkinson’s Medicines

The World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA), which is an alliance of various member organisations including the International Pharmaceutical Federation (IPF) continually strives to deliver cost effective, safe, and quality Healthcare worldwide. It has provided the educational study material to the people affected with Parkinson’s disease to stay protected from counterfeit and cheap drugs.

  • Buying drugs from foreign sources may be cheaper but you can never be sure about the quality or efficacy of such drugs. Local government regulations may be significantly different from your country of origin and counterfeit drugs are not monitored for quality control.
  • Cheaper drugs may actually be counterfeit, fake, or adulterated drugs, where useless or toxic substances could be substituted for the actual ingredients. Rather speak to your doctor about generics if you cannot afford your current drug regimen.
  • Parkinson’s disease patients are heavily dependent upon their medicines to control their symptoms. Even a slight amount of dose alteration can produce severe fluctuations in their symptoms. With counterfeit medicines, you can never be sure about the exact composition of the drug, which can play havoc with the patient’s system. Either too little or too much of the active ingredient can be equally harmful.
  • With tampering of the drug, unknown substances may be present in the drug, the effects of which can be dangerous. This can cause drug interactions with your regular PD medicines or other medication.
  • There may be no improvement in a patient’s symptoms where previously there was good control of symptoms. Side effects and even an overdose is a possibility.
  • New complications may arise which were not present earlier.
  • Foreign drugs may contain substances which have not been approved as being safe or effective within your country of residence.
  • It is illegal to bring in such drugs into the country and in case of any problem arising from the use of such drugs you will not have recourse to any corrective action.
  • In the event that these drugs contain illicit substances, you may be convicted for the possession of narcotic substances.

Buying Cheap or Counterfeit PD Drugs

You may inadvertently acquire counterfeit drugs by :

  • Ordering drugs from an online agency/pharmacy (over the internet).
  • Buying drugs while holidaying overseas.
  • Acquiring drugs from the local “black market”.
  • Genuine but stolen drugs which are altered and then sold back into the distribution system.
  • Genuine but expired drugs which are sold after re-packaging and changing the expiry date.
  • Genuine drugs acquired from patients have got them free and sold them for a minimum price.
  • Pharmacies may unknowingly keep counterfeit drugs supplied by dishonest wholesalers.

How to Avoid Using Counterfeit Drugs

Up to 30% of the medicines in the Global markets are fake or counterfeit and they are becoming harder to detect due to the technological advancements. While it may seem obvious, many consumers buy fake drugs unknowingly. Some of the medicines look entirely similar to the genuine products, deceiving even the expert healthcare professionals. It must be analysed by the original manufacturer possessing the medical licence. These are some of the measures to ensure that you are only using genuine PD drugs as prescribed by your doctor.

  • Avoid buying medicines from doubtful online agencies. The Internet knows no boundaries. The counterfeiter from any country can register a domain name to access the lucrative American market and dispose of the illicit drugs. The fake online pharmacy will never usually provide a live contact number of the pharmacist. Also, it will never ask the patient about the prescription of a particular prescription drug as they are majorly operating illegally.
  • Buy medicines from reputable pharmacies.
  • Be alert while buying medicines, taking care to look at the packaging and expiry dates. The patient and the care providers must familiarize themselves with every aspect of the packaging and the medicine itself. On renewal of every prescription the packaging must be compared against the previous pack. Note for the tiniest difference in the clarity of the print, colour, or seals.
  • Being aware about the shape, color, size, taste, smell or other characteristics of medicines which are taken regularly.
  • Keep a diary of the side effects. If the medicine is not working normally as before or if the patient notices the presence or absence of a few side effects, it must be reported to the doctor immediately.
  • Avoiding buying medicines from foreign sources. Carry extra medicines while holidaying abroad and in the event that you need to acquire more medication, visit a reputable pharmacy in the area.

To cut to the chase it must be noted that the counterfeit medicines carry deadly risk. Parkinson’s patients are heavily dependent on their drugs to control the debilitating symptoms. Even a slight moderation in the dose amount can produce severe adverse fluctuations. Either too little or too much of the active ingredient of the drug is harmful. The consequences of such medicines include failure of the treatment, resistance to the treatment, fatal progression of the disease or  even death. The group of patients affected by Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers must be provided with the general health literacy to ensure an appropriate delivery of safe drugs.

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