The Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica (PSJ) has expressed concern about counterfeit medicines being sold locally; and has been advising its membership to be cognizant of the registered distributors and manufacturers of medical products approved to conduct business in Jamaica.

The PSJ continues its drive to combat counterfeits through continuing education and by raising awareness among its membership and other health professional groups and clients. The warning? Counterfeit medicines can be toxic, and pharmacists are vital in ensuring the safety of medications used by patients.

               I. Pharmacists are responsible for the integrity of the supply chain, ranging from manufacturer to distributor and, ultimately, to the patient.
               II. They ensure medications are purchased from known reliable sources, minimize the risk of and exposure to counterfeit medical products
               III. They can warn patients about the dangers of purchasing medications over the internet and monitor counterfeit medication alerts – stay informed
               IV. They inspect all medication packages for faulty seals and labels, which safeguard products
               V. They should destroy empty packages/containers to prevent re-use
               VI. They should report any suspicious counterfeit medications through PharmWatch
               VII. They should act quickly to change the medicine if it is substandard or counterfeit
               VIII. Always report the suspected counterfeit to the appropriate authorities
               IX. Reassure the patient on the way forward and reassess therapy consequently
               X. Assist in ensuring replacement of any suspect medicines so the patient is not left without treatment.

The scale of counterfeit medicines worldwide is difficult to determine. It is estimated that the prevalence of counterfeit medicines ranges from less than 1 percent of sales in developed countries, to between 10-30 percent in developing countries, depending on the geographical area.

Counterfeit medicines and medical products are defined by the World Health Organization as:

1. Substandard medical products Also called “out of specification”, these are authorized medical products that fail to meet either their quality standards or their specifications, or both.

2. Unregistered/unlicensed medical products Medical products that have not undergone evaluation and/or approval by the national or regional regulatory authority for the market in which they are marketed/distributed or used, subject to permitted conditions under national or regional regulation and legislation.

3. Falsified medical products Medical products that deliberately/fraudulently misrepresent their identity, composition or source. (Appendix 3 to Annex, World Health Assembly document A70/23, 2017.)

Counterfeits of medicines and medical products can apply to both brand name and generic products, prescription medicines, non-prescription medication, and herbal remedies. They may contain different ingredients, both harmless and toxic, or different quantities of ingredients. Examples of the classes of medicines that have been counterfeited (non-exhaustive list) include: Analgesics; Anaesthetics; Erectile stimulants; Antacids; Hormones; Anti-asthmatics; Immune boosters; Anti-depressants; Antimicrobials and Vaccines.

The World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) is a group of health professionals including physicians, pharmacists, nurses and dentists, tasked with supporting their peers in the fight against counterfeit medicines as a priority action area. The increasing availability of counterfeit medicines presents a serious and increasing threat to patient safety and public health.

As stated by our ethical code it is our responsibility as health professionals to ensure all patients receive safe medications and medical devices. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has established an International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force (IMPACT) that brings together all stakeholders on the global level to fight counterfeit medical products. The IMPACT requested WHPA to develop a toolkit for health professionals and patients which is available at http://whpa.org.

The World Health Profession Alliance (WHPA) has a BE AWARE Campaign on what can health professionals do. They have suggested some key steps that health professionals can take to identify and report counterfeit medicines to help fight such criminal practices and make treatments safer:

               Be observant. Become familiar with the WHPA visual inspection tool so you can identify counterfeit medicines. If anything about medicines is unusual or different, consider counterfeit medicines.
               Evaluate your patient’s response to the medicine use. If treatment fails, or has an unexpected effect, consider counterfeit medicines as possible suspects.
               Acquire as much information as possible about the product, its packaging, pharmaceutical properties and usage.
               Where was the product procured? Find out whether it was purchased from a known and reliable source.
               Actively inform your health professional colleagues if medicines have been confirmed as counterfeit, as well as other patients who might also have received the medicines.
               Remove any suspect medicines from the pharmacy, clinic, hospital or consulting room. Report the suspected counterfeit to the relevant health authorities.
               Educate your colleagues, patients and the public to identify and avoid counterfeit medicines by purchasing their medicines from known and reliable sources.

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The Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica (PSJ) has expressed concern about counterfeit medicines being sold locally; and has been advising its membership to be cognizant of the registered distributors and manufacturers of medical products approved to conduct business in Jamaica. The PSJ continues its drive to combat counterfeits through continuing education...

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