KUALA LUMPUR: If the medicine you are taking is not working as it should, take a closer look because what you have may just be a counterfeit.
Counterfeit medicine is becoming more common in the market, as making them is less risky than producing hard drugs, which
attracts the death penalty.
The Health Ministry's pharmaceutical services enforcement division has also found that syndicates would rather manufacture counterfeit medicine because the profits are comparable or even higher than what could be made from hard drugs.
Most of the time, counterfeit medicine involves antibiotics, cough and cold remedies, steroids, antihistamines and hormonal medication, which can be marketed easily, said the division's principal assistant director Ahmad Nozrin Taharin at the Nurses Day celebrations at Kuala Lumpur Hospital yesterday.
The lack of deterrent laws, he added, had also contributed to the rise in counterfeit medicine locally.
Currently, offences related to counterfeit medicine are only addressed under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations 1984, which deals with unregistered products.
Under this legislation, first offenders are liable to a maximum fine of RM25,000 or three years jail or both.
The maximum penalty for a subsequent offence is a fine of RM50,000 or five years jail or both.
Errant companies are liable to be fined a maximum of RM50,000. Ahmad Nozrin said new legislation was being considered to increase the penalties and to specifically address counterfeit medicine.
He added that as opposed to hard drugs, counterfeit medicine was not known to have adverse effects on the consumer.
They often did not have active ingredients, he said, adding that this was the case in 43% of the fake medications seized worldwide.
Others were of poor quality (24%) or had a low content of active ingredients (21%) or the wrong ingredients (7%) or the wrong packaging (5%).
According to the World Health Organisation, circulation of counterfeit medicine comprised between 6% and 10% of the world market.
Ahmad Nozrin said consumers should look out for such medicine by examining the packaging and also checking the price.
Most of the time, these medications are much cheaper than genuine ones.
People should also check to see if the distribution is by those authorised to do so.
Ideally, send the product for laboratory tests if it does not seem to work as it should, he said.