FIP HPS Webinar: Counterfeit Medications

Date/Time: September 29th 2016/ 8 am EST (US)



The first course of a series of three webinars was held on the 29th of September by the International Pharmaceutical Federation Hospital Pharmacy Section. The topic was “Counterfeit Medicines”, an issue that causes risk to public health in both developed and developing countries. This is the first HPS webinar that has been accredited by Taiwan Society of Health-system Pharmacists for continual professional development points. The topic is of great interest to Taiwan pharmacists following the WHPA Counterfeit Medicines Workshop in Taipei in 2011.The webinar speakers included Nkechi Christiana Anyanwu from the Federal Medical Centre in Nigeria, Libby Baney, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies and Lynda Scammell. Moderated by John Hertig.

In John Hertig’s introduction, he mentioned:

  • 71% of consumers searching online for relevant health information – 40% of those individuals act directly upon the information.
  • Consumer receives wrong medication, i.e. incorrect dosage form, sub-potent, super-potent, lack of active ingredient.
  • What are the signs of an illegal online drug seller?
  1. Lack of any or all appropriate pharmacy licensing
  2. Offering prescription medicine without a prescription
  3. Marketing itself as a “Canadian” online pharmacy
  4. No transparent mailing or brick-and-mortar store addresses
  5. Sourcing of drugs from countries such as Turkey, India, China and foreign locations
  6. Making patients sign legal waivers/forms for medications
  7. Limited number of medicines or classes of prescription drugs
  8. Solicitation via spam emails


Followed by Nkechi Christiana Anyanwu talking about why SSFFC medicine matters to pharmacists and the situation in Nigeria:

  • WHAT ARE SSFFC MEDICINES? Current World Health Organization Term – SSFFC – “Substandard/Spurious/Falsely- Labeled/Falsified/Counterfeit Medical Products.”
  1. No active ingredient means patients are deprived of essential medicines for therapy.
  2. Insufficient active ingredient leads to treatment failure or resistance.
  3. Increased dose may increase side effects, injuries and may lead to death.
  4. Lack of therapeutic results may lead to economic loss and loss of confidence in practitioners and the facility.
  5. Toxic ingredients can lead to death.
  1. SSFFC medicines are a huge global issue, no country remains untouched. Different organizations have estimated that anywhere from 100,000 to 1million people die every year due to SSFFC drugs.
  2. What was once considered a problem of developing and low income countries has now snowballed into a global menace.
  3. SSFFC medicines have grave consequences on patient/consumer safety which is a primary responsibility of the pharmacist.
  4. A culture of self –diagnosis and self-prescribing has led to emergence of thousands of unregulated websites providing unsupervised access to SSFFC medical products.
  5. SSFFC medicines negate the objectives of pharmaceutical care which focuses on the safe use of medicines.
  6. Low and middle income countries and those in areas of conflict or civil unrest with weak or non-existent health systems that bear the greatest burden of SSFFC medicines.
  7. Thanks to the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO), significant progress has been made addressing the SSFFC medicines problem.
  1. SSFFC medicines were a serious menace in Nigeria until Prof. Dora Akunyili started to solve these SSFFC problems in 2001.
  2. She restructured and reorganized NAFDAC, established operational strategies, engaged relevant stakeholders, adopted aggressive public enlightenment campaigns to develop a strong regulatory environment that sanitized the country.
  3. Subsequent administrations need to adopt and improve on her efforts to rid the country of SSFFC medicines.

Then, Libby Baney talked about the NGO responses:

  • Need to provide free continuing education courses for pharmacists and doctors as many are not aware of the problem.
  • Need clear laws about what can be sold online
  • Encourage consumers to use the website to check to see if drugs are legitimate.
  • ASOP (Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies) Global works in the US, EU and Asia to:
  1. Collaborate with partners and stakeholders to Improve patient safety online.
  2. Educate patients, caregivers and healthcare providers about how to stay safe when shopping for medicines online;
  3. Conduct research on the Internet pharmacy market, consumer behaviors and trends; and
  4. Influence the policies of Internet commerce companies, local and national governments and law enforcement authorities;

Finally, Lynda Scammell talked about the situation in Europe/UK:

  • Legislations are in place which regulates manufacturers and wholesalers. Last July, regulations were introduced for the Internet.
  • In 2015, 20000 Youtube videos were taken down.
  • Encourage public campaigns to increase awareness.
  • Aim to increase safety features by 2019 for every prescription in Europe such as using barcodes as unique identifiers and tamper-proof seals for every box of medicine.

The webinar enriched Taiwan pharmacists’ knowledge on counterfeit medicine and better understanding how to avoid those medicines. We would like to thank John Hertig, HPS member, for coordinating the webinar and we look forward to the next one on November 15th talking about “Medication Safety Practices”!





This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.