How To Identify Counterfeit Drugs


One speaks of a drug counterfeit if the drug contains no active ingredient, wrong or fake ingredients.

According to FDA, the counterfeit drugs have false information about

  • identity
  • the origin
  • the ingredients and/or
  • the distribution channel.

The counterfeit medicines are usually sold on the black market, usually via illegal online pharmacies, and are a growing problem worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 50 percent of medicines sold over the Internet are counterfeit. Counterfeits of sexual enhancers, hair growth and slimming products are appearing all over the world. Cancer drugs, antimalarial drugs and cholesterol-lowering drugs are the most commonly counterfeited worldwide.

This is how you can identify counterfeit drugs

Tip 1: Check a packaging

It is not easy to recognize a plagiarism from its external appearance. The primary packaging and outer packaging of counterfeit medicines often look better than the packaging of branded medicines.

Check if the packaging looks suspicious. Remember that each pack of original medicines is printed with a 2D barcode containing an individual pack number.

The next sign that a prescription drug isn't counterfeit is tamper evidence. The opening protection is a device on the pack that ensures that a pack cannot be opened unnoticed.

Tip 2: Check a dosage form

The counterfeit drug can be produced in a different dosage form than the original drug.

Tip 3: Check whether a dosage is correct

Drug imitations can be made in all sorts of dosages.

Tip 4: Check whether a composition is correct

The drug copies usually differ from the original drugs in their composition. For example, they can contain too much, too little or no active substance at all. In the worst case, the counterfeit medications contain toxic ingredients that can be harmful to health.

Tip 5: Compare the price before buying the drug

Price is another way to identify counterfeit products. If the price is far cheaper than you expected, you need to think twice. However, this is not always true, especially for some products (fake Innovator/Generic brands) that may be sold at the same price as the brand.

Tip 6: Check if there is a patient leaflet

The counterfeit drugs usually do not have a detailed package insert or this package insert looks like a copy.

Tip 7: Only buy from a certified pharmacy

As a rule, counterfeit medicines are offered on the Internet - by dubious online providers and circumventing the duty of disclosure. To avoid copying the medication, buy from licensed and reputable pharmacies.

Tip 8: Check an expiry date and changer number

Each packaging of the real drug has a serial number and an expiry date.

Tip 9: Check the indications of origin

Verifying the manufacturer's origin information is only easy and straightforward if it is a reputable international company that has a tracking system in place. However, this is often not the case as counterfeit companies cannot have their exact address printed on the medicines. In this case, check that the manufacturer's address is traceable, ie that it contains the exact location of the company and not just the country name.

Tip 10: Be careful if the medication has an unusual smell and/or taste

Special care should be taken if the drug has an unusual smell and taste.

Identify counterfeit drugs to minimize health risks

All unapproved therapeutic products have a risk, and counterfeit products have a much greater risk. For example, as mentioned above, the counterfeit may receive too much of the stated active ingredient. In this case, there is a risk of overdose or poisoning. If the counterfeit contains too little of the active ingredient, this is also dangerous because the effect is impaired.

Counterfeit medicines can also contain wrong substances, wrong dosage or dangerous substances that do not produce any therapeutic effect.


Half of the medicines sold over the Internet are counterfeits. The negative effects of counterfeit medicines know no bounds. The medicines are poisons and care must be taken to avoid the fakes. The tips outlined in this blog post will not only help reduce the likelihood of buying and taking counterfeit medicines, but can also help save you money.

From the category: Where, how and what drugs to buy?

Last updated on 25.05.2022