Fake and Counterfeit Medicines

The high cost of certain medicines is the incentive for pharmaceutical scams.

Medicine, of course, costs money. As with every other commodity, the law of supply and demand applies to the pharmaceutical industry as well. The less common a medicine is the more it costs. The global pharmaceutical market now generates an annual revenue of over $1.3 trillion. That’s both an open invitation for inventiveness as well as for criminals operating pharmaceutical scams, which are estimated to pocket $200 billion a year.

This is especially true regarding patented drugs since, by definition, there are no generic alternatives.

Pharmaceutical scams proliferated along with the growth in the number of offshore websites that provide medicines online. The COVID-19 pandemic, moreover, has been a boon for scammers distributing everything from substandard masks and personal protection equipment (PPE) to fake sanitizers and quack treatments. One survey found 3,000 fake coronavirus-related pharmaceutical advertisements in a single week in March 2020.

How Do Pharmaceutical Scams Operate?

When you purchase a prescription online you pay by credit card and wait a week or two to receive your order. So far so good. But how do you know that you really received what you ordered? Is it the original product? Maybe it’s a cheap imitation? Is it really the precise dose that you need? There are pharmaceutical scams that intentionally mispackage products by misrepresenting the pill. Perhaps its real expiration date passed and a scammer simply re-stamped the box with a seemingly valid one? Or maybe it’s just a placebo?

Pharmaceutical Scams Are Not Just Online

But you don’t have to go online or overseas to fall victim to pharmaceutical scams. In 2009, authorities shut down a drug distribution firm based in Tennessee. It turned out that the firm purchased second-hand pills through networks of “diverters” in Miami and New York. They, in turn, obtained the merchandise from people at random who no longer needed them or in bulk from nursing homes. They then repackaged the medicines and re-sold them to pharmacies across the U.S. Federal authorities estimated that the scam netted $60 million over a three-year period.

That being the case, how do you know that the online pharmacy you buy your medicine from is legitimate? One site, which claimed to belong to the United States National Medical Association, was willing to counsel anyone who inquired. But it was all a fake. The site, which is no longer active, was a phishing scam. It used the personal information that visitors willingly provided to enable the criminals who ran it to commit identity fraud.

What if You Have a Disease that Resists Permitted Medicines?

One of the most pernicious aspects of pharmaceutical scams is their focus on sufferers of chronic conditions and terminal diseases. Anyone in such a condition is willing to try something new. Even something experimental. Especially if it does not yet have the required authorization to go on sale in his or her own country. The Food and Drug Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identified at least 80 products that “claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate or cure cancer.” All of those substances were available without the necessary FDA approval, mostly online. Consumers should consider any and all drugs potentially dangerous as long as they do not have FDA approval.

Fake Email Warnings

There are scammers who frequently spam Americans hoping to catch consumers who purchased medicines on overseas internet sites. Their spam emails warn them that they are under investigation by the FDA for having done so. The emails may or may not make financial demands on the recipients. They may or not be phishing attempts to obtain personal information that can then be used for identity theft. The FDA never sends notices like this. Therefore, it advises recipients to ignore them.

If you think you have been victimized by a pharmaceutical scam, consult with the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.