LivingFake medicines: danger just a click away

Fake medicines: danger just a click away

Since 2008, the largest international operation coordinated worldwide by Interpol aimed at disrupting the online sale of counterfeit and illicit medical devices has made it possible to withdraw from circulation, according to updated data from the Civil Guard, more than 105 million units –between pills, ampoules, sachets, cans …– and more than 3,000 arrests have been made. The operation is called Pangea , after the megacontinent that brought together most of the landmass on the planet some 335 million years ago.

There are reasons for that name: international unity has proven to be an effective weapon to minimize the risks of exposure to a problem that, as the World Health Organization (WHO) recalls, makes no exceptions. Because the practice that was previously associated with developing and low-income countries has become universal thanks to the Internet. In fact, another of Pangea’s objectives is to make the public aware of the risks associated with acquiring medicines on unregulated websites .

But who buys them? Miguel A. Marcos, first sergeant of the Civil Guard, assures that “the profile of this type of consumer is very varied, and it occurs in all strata of society .” The reasons are equally varied and easily interpretable if we look at the drugs that are at the forefront of the illicit trade: sexual enhancers, anabolics and psychotropic substances. Its illegal trade continues to grow thanks to the proliferation of web pages –generally with domains outside of Spain–, advertising platforms or word of mouth in gyms.

These drugs have in common that you need a prescription prescribed by a doctor and dispensed in a pharmacy office to purchase them. Therefore, the black market exists basically for three reasons: because a consumer demands a product without suffering from a health problem; because he cannot access it through the legal channel, since his doctor would never prescribe it; or because, even suffering from this health problem, you decide not to visit your doctor. “It is an easier and anonymous way,” concludes Marcos.

From here the other great way to fight this clandestine trade can be deduced: to make the public aware that the origin of these compounds is totally unknown , with its possible consequences. According to the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS), more than half of the drugs circulating on the Internet are counterfeits “manufactured without guarantees from unauthorized substances, of low quality or with toxic effects, which can cause damage. irreparable in health “.

How to recognize an illegal website?

The AEMPS recalls that they usually present these features:

– They sell unauthorized or prescription drugs. Both the drugs authorized in Spain and those that require a prescription can be consulted on the AEMPS website.

They do not correspond to pharmacy offices authorized to sell online. The European Commission has designed a logo with the phrase “Click here to verify if this site is legal” and the flag of the country as a seal of guarantee.

– They do not report who the owner is, nor the responsible pharmacist , nor does they have a physical address of the office or any way of identifying it. The AEMPS website periodically updates the list of establishments that can carry out online sales.

By Carlos B. Rodríguez

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