Can you spot a fake?

Would you be able to tell a real medicine from a fake one?

This important question is being posed to the public, healthcare professionals and policymakers by the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA). In a video, launched yesterday, viewers are asked to choose between two products and then shown the consequence of their decision: the person either recovers or ends up in hospital.

The project was led by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). According to its CEO, Luc Besançon, there is an increase in fake medicines around the world and they’re becoming harder to identify due to technological advances.

“We wanted, through this video, to confront people with a situation to which little thought is often given. We wanted to give viewers the responsibility for what happens and, in doing so, to send home the message that there is a need to think twice about the choices they make,” he says.

“The consequences of counterfeit medicines include no cure, resistance to treatment, spread of disease, permanent injury and even death,” says Dr Frances Hughes, chief executive officer of the International Council of Nurses (ICN). “We need to empower the public through general health literacy and ensure there is more nursing involvement in strategies.” 

The video is part of a new WHPA project, “Counter the counterfeits” – the latest work in the alliance’s long-running campaign to protect people from substandard or falsified medicines and medical devices. It is accompanied by measures that consumers, health professionals and policymakers around the world can take to eliminate fake medicines and the harm cause.

Consumers are given advice on how to make sure that medicines bought online are real, and healthcare professionals are reminded which features of medicines to assess. WHPA also calls on policymakers to strengthen laws against counterfeiting, and to involve healthcare professionals in policy decisions. 

“This project sends a clear message that the problem of fake medicines has not gone away and that doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and physical therapists continue to be concerned. We hope that the video and the measures to take are spread far and wide, particularly through social media sharing,” says Professor Sir Michael Marmot, President of the World Medical Association (WMA).

The “Counter the counterfeits” video and animations can be viewed at here or at the FIP YouTube channel.

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