KT For Good: Make sure you are not popping a 'fake' pill

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KT For Good: Make sure you are not popping a fake pill

The seventh part of our #FakesCostMore series highlights the dangers of fake medicines and over-the-counter drugs.


Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Sat 22 Jun 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 22 Jun 2019, 11:47 AM

Falsified medicines know no border. Fake products can be made in a country, exported to another country and infiltrated through a wholesaler into the legal distribution chain, or purchased on the Internet anywhere in the world.
"Such medicines harm patients and undermine confidence in medical products, healthcare professionals and health systems," said Dr Amin Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary of the public health policy and licensing sector at the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap).
Therefore, it is important to know your medicines. 
Dr Sherbaz Bichu, CEO of Aster Hospitals UAE, said: "Falsified and substandard drugs may contain toxic doses of dangerous ingredients and cause mass poisoning.
"Poor-quality medicines compromise the treatment of chronic and infectious diseases, causing disease progression, drug resistance, and death. As chronic diseases increase in low- and middle-income countries, so will the need for reliable medicines," he added.
"Substandard and falsified medicines encourage drug resistance, threatening the health of populations today and in the future," said Dr Sherbaz.
According to Dr Samina Rahman, family medicine consultant at Emirates Hospital - Jumeriah, there is no such thing as 'fake' medication in the UAE and hence cannot be labelled as such because all medicines entering into the UAE undergo a stringent check and are regulated by governing bodies such as Mohap and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) among others.
"The only difference patients need to be aware of is between prescribed and over-the-counter drugs (OTC)," she said. While prescribed medications are recommended by the doctor based on the patient's condition and medical history, OTC drugs are medicines sold directly to the patient without a prescription from the healthcare provider.
"This does not mean they are illegal. These drugs are only more relatively accessible and similar to any prescribed medication. They are selected by a regulatory agency to confirm that the ingredients are safe to be consumed even without a physician's recommendation," explained Dr Samina.
Firstly, OTC drugs can be used to treat or prevent common health problems including allergies, constipation, cold and flu or nausea.
"Similar to prescription medication, these drugs can also cause side effects or reactions, and it is advised to read the label before purchasing them," she said.
Some of the most common OTC medicines are taken usually to combat cold and other allergies and usually contain decongestants such as phenylephrine, paracetamol and include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as brufen.
"But one needs to be aware that a high dosage of phenylephrine can result in elevation of blood pressure, which is unsafe for patients, especially those suffering from high blood pressure," said Dr Samina.
"Medicines containing this decongestant is also not recommended to be taken my men with an enlarged prostate, as it could potentially cause urinary retention."
Prolonged use of paracetamol can prove fatal due to the damage caused to the liver, whereas brufen can result in renal failure, elevation in blood pressure and gastrointestinal bleeding. Other precautions one should take include taking OTC medications only if absolutely required, not administering a higher dose than suggested on the label, checking the ingredients to avoid extra dosage, and using an appropriate measurement device when giving medication to children.
So how do we spot fakes?
Detection of counterfeit medicines by customs officials usually occurs as a result of intelligence or random checks, in each ports regulatory make sure the same by sing advanced techniques like use of TruScanTM Analyser.
"To avoid the same, we are following procurement only through the approved suppliers, any pack change or price confirms with regulatory approvals, reporting of any adverse drug reactions internally, pharmaceutical companies and with regulators," said Dr Sherbaz.
According to Dr Samina, before purchasing any OTC medicines, it is suggested to do a thorough research or possibly consult a physician or pharmacist.
"Certain drugs that have been banned are still available in some countries and thus knowing about the setbacks of these is crucial from a doctor or pharmacist," she said.
"Understanding the ingredients is crucial because an unexpected side-effect, allergic reaction or worsening of medical conditions definitely means you have been taking something which does not agree with your system and must immediately stop its usage before it can lead to something life threatening," she added.

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