Patient Safety Awareness Week: 52 Weeks a Year

Patient Safety Awareness Week: 52 Weeks a Year

03.07.14 | By Scott LaGanga

A patient should never have to worry about the safety of their medicines. Unfortunately, patient’s lives are put at risk across the country due to counterfeit, substandard, or otherwise unsafe medicines. By some estimates, 36 million Americans have purchased prescription medicines online without a prescription, and the National Association of Board of Pharmacy’s estimates that 97 percent of all online pharmacies fail to meet even the most basic pharmacy laws and practice standards, which is incredibly disconcerting.

Patient Safety Awareness Week is a good reminder that while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working tirelessly to keep the U.S. supply chain safe, it is important to be an informed consumer. Taking an active interest in your health, especially when it comes to your medications, should occur year-round.

Knowing the origin of your medication is key. Most counterfeits found in the U.S. are not purchased from doctors and pharmacies, but are from outside the supply chain. If you purchase your medication online be certain that the distributor is FDA regulated or accredited by the National Association of Board of Pharmacy’s VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site). The VIPPS website has a list of certified pharmacies so you can avoid the risk of counterfeit, expired or fraudulent medicines.

Unfortunately, a small percentage of counterfeit medications found in the U.S. have been distributed by licensed doctors and pharmacists. In 2012, for example, the FDA sent warning letters to more than 50 doctors and clinics in the U.S. making them aware of the fact that they may have purchased counterfeit cancer medications. Medical professionals play a major role in the elimination of counterfeit medications and can learn about sourcing medicine safely by reading the Partnership for Safe Medicines’ LEADERS guide.

Counterfeit medicines are a real public health risk because criminal enterprises have been evolving and innovating much faster than the government’s efforts to stop them. Earlier this month, for example, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dismantled a counterfeit facility in Quebec capable of producing an estimated 300,000 fake pills, and last June, the INTERPOL-led Operation Pangea VI seized more than 9.8 million doses of counterfeit medicines and shut down more than 9,600 websites for fake online pharmacies.

Everyone has a role to play in the fight against prescription counterfeits, and patient safety should not just be limited to one week, especially when it comes to counterfeit medicines and patient health. If you suspect your medication has been tampered with or compromised, be sure to follow the S.A.F.E.D.R.U.G. checklist.



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