top of page

Falsified and Substandard Medicines: Public Education Series #1

When Spotting the Difference Could Mean Life or Death

In a small remote African village, a young girl, Asha, has been having spiking high fever. After using a series of folk remedies only to see her becoming weaker, Asha was transported more than a hundred kilometres to the nearest healthcare facility for medical attention. Despite numerous doses of prescription medicines, the fever became more severe; Asha started to throw fits and slipped in and out of consciousness. As the young life was snuffed out amidst the thick air of despair and sorrow, the hospital administrator discovered to his horror that the medicines in the pharmacy were counterfeited.

Magnitude of the Issue

Unfortunately, the above story is not an isolated tragedy. Due to the secretive nature of this grey market, World Health Organisation (WHO) is unable to give a reliable estimate on the number of injuries and deaths caused by counterfeit medicines. Nevertheless, WHO views counterfeit medicines as a significant factor in causing one million deaths due to malaria (WHO, 2010). It is estimated that 15% of all global medicines are falsified or substandard and this figure can be more than 50% in some parts of Africa and Asia (Jones, 2004 via Cockburn et al, 2007).

Counterfeit Medicines respect no boundary

If you are reading this article, you belong to the fortunate 40% of the world population who has internet access (World Bank, 2016).  You may think that counterfeit medicines is a developing country’s problem and does not concern you. Think again. According to one of the largest study in Western Europe, citizens of 14 countries spent  US$ 14 billion a year on counterfeit medicines (WHO, 2010).  In 2009, Singapore had 150 cases who suffered from severely low blood sugar level due to consumption of counterfeited erectile dysfunction medicines that were adulterated with glyburide – an anti-diabetes medicine. Among these, four died and seven had severe brain damage (WHO, 2010).

Efforts Against Counterfeit Medicines

Against this scourge, various international organisations are joining hands to fight counterfeit medicines. WHO has led various congresses for countries to discuss the issue and acts as the information interchange for intelligence on counterfeit medicines (Ossola, 2015). In the private sector, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), which comprised of 33 pharmaceutical companies, are developing solutions to combat counterfeit medicines (PSI, 2017). In the area of enforcement, Interpol has launched its central anti-counterfeit mechanism – Operation Pangea. Nevertheless, players in this tough fight found that this issue is in a steep upward trend. For example, in the initial year of Operation Pangea, 2.4 million units of fake medicines were seized in 2011; this number has grown more than 8-folds to 20.4 million in 2015.      

Join us

Interested in learning more about counterfeit medicines and how you can play a part in the fight against counterfeit medicines? Contact us

This article is a part of the public education series, proudly brought to you by Accu Healthcare.


Cockburn, R. et al (2005), “The Global Threat of Counterfeit Drugs: Why Industry and Governments Must Communicate the Dangers”, PLOS Medicines.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Available at:

Ossola, A. (2015), “The Fake Drug Industry Is Exploding, and We Can’t Do Anything About It”, Newsweek, Tech & Science.                       Available at: 


PSI (2017), “Meet The Challenge”, Pharmaceutical Security Institute Home Page.                                                                                                Available at:

WHO (2010), “Growing threat from counterfeit medicines”, WHO Bulletin 8(4), pp. 241-320.                                                                                   Available at:

World Bank (2016), “World Development Report".                                                                                                                                                       Available at:

> Schedule your appointment online

bottom of page