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5/14/2004
Press Release

ASHP Offers Consumers Important Tips on Avoiding Counterfeit Medications

While the U.S. drug supply is still the safest in the world, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) advises consumers to be particularly vigilant about their medications given the recent rise in counterfeiting.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), counterfeit drug investigations have quadrupled since 2000. Additionally, the World Health Organization estimates that fake medications currently make up seven to 10 percent of the world market. These products may be expired, contain incorrect ingredients or the wrong amounts of active ingredients, or be enclosed in packaging that doesn’t match the product inside.

In light of this new and growing danger, ASHP wants Americans to know that their best allies in receiving safe and appropriate drug therapy are pharmacists and physicians. 

“It is very difficult for patients to tell just by looking at a medication or its packaging if it is a counterfeit product,” said ASHP President Daniel M. Ashby, M.S., FASHP, noting the increasing sophistication of international counterfeiters. “However, that is not to say that consumers are helpless in the face of this new threat. They can do a lot by staying alert and following a few simple tips. And, when in doubt, always talk to your pharmacist.”

ASHP recommends that consumers follow a few simple safety tips when taking medication:  

  • Pay attention to your medicine, particularly the instructions on how you should take it, the correct dosage, and warnings about interactions with other medications.
  • Talk to your pharmacist if your medication is:
    • Different than you’ve experienced before in shape, color, taste, smell, or feel
    • Packaged differently, or
    • Does not produce the expected results. This can be due to a number of reasons, including:
      • Your body’s response has changed over time (requiring a higher or lower dose),
      • An interaction has occurred among medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements you are taking or specific foods you are eating,
      • You have a new medical condition that changes the medication’s effectiveness, or
        You have received a counterfeit product. 
  • Be extremely careful when ordering medications on the Internet. To stay safe, only buy medications from pharmacy Web sites that post the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) symbol.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has developed the following list of drug products that have been counterfeited in the past.  Consumers should be especially cautious if taking:

  • Diflucan® (fluconazole)
  • Lamisil® (terbinafine)
  • Lipitor® (atorvastatin)
  • Sustiva® (efavirenz)
  • Procrit® (epoetin alfa)
  • Zocor® (simvastatin)

A complete list of drugs that have been counterfeited and other information on safe medication use can be found on ASHP’s consumer Web site, www.SafeMedication.com.

ASHP is working on a number of fronts to address the issue of counterfeiting, including partnering with the FDA in providing rapid alerts to ASHP members and U.S. hospital pharmacy departments about counterfeit drug incidents. The Society also maintains an online Drug Shortage Management Resource Center that provides timely updates on product shortages and therapeutic alternatives.

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care and other components of health care systems.  ASHP, which has a long history of medication error prevention efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medicines.  Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP's primary objective.  The Society has extensive publishing and educational programs designed to help members improve their delivery of pharmaceutical care, and it is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs. For more information, visit www.ashp.org or www.SafeMedication.com.