Everything can be counterfeited these days, from the latest Nike shoes to must-have toys, electronics, and more. These fakes are occasionally sought-out by the consumer, especially in the case of clothing and electronics as they are seen as a cheaper way to get the latest branded goods, but there are counterfeit goods that no one wants and everyone at risk of purchasing: fake drugs.

This includes everything from herbal remedies to prescription drugs. Not only are these cheap knock-offs ripping customers off, but they could also be putting their lives in danger.

Real Herbal Supplements vs Fake Herbal Supplements

The supplement industry is unregulated and open for exploitation. They are taken as medicines but classed as foods, yet it could be argued that even foods undergo more regulation and testing than supplements do.

The biggest issue is the use of cheap alternatives in otherwise expensive herbal remedies. As an example, rather than using an extract of saffron that would cost a lot of money, a company may be tempted to use turmeric, which produces a similar color and costs much less. Tests on supplements have shown that they contain less than they claim and that some of them don’t contain any of the ingredient claimed on the label.

So what can you do? Well, there is never a guarantee that you’re getting what you pay for as these companies are not held responsible by the regulators. However, they are held responsible by their customers. If they produce a product that isn’t what it’s claimed then rumor will spread, customers will complain that it’s doing nothing for them, and their reputation will be tarnished.

That’s why it’s best to stick with established and reputable brands. The rule of “if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is” also applies here. If they are selling a product at a rock bottom price, them there is a good chance it’s not what it claims to be. This is especially true for smaller and newer companies, as they simply won’t have the buying or negotiation power of their richer and more established competitors.

Of course, you’re less at risk if the product is sold as a loose powder (as opposed to a capsule) and if it is well known and cheap. For instance, no one is going to counterfeit creatine, because there’s no need and the average user has a good idea of what creatine tastes and looks like. If you want to avoid being duped altogether you should simply focus on loose, whole ingredients.

As an example, rather than buying a curcumin extract, buy turmeric powder; rather than buying an extract of cistus or any other plant for that matter, buy the dried leaf. It’ll still provide the same benefits and as you’re consuming a whole, natural product as opposed to an unnatural, concentrated extract, there may also be fewer side effects.

Real Drugs vs Counterfeit Drugs

Supplement companies don’t want to harm you, as that would bring a very expensive lawsuit down on them. But the same can’t be said for those supplying fake drugs. The old adage of, “A drug dealer won’t sell you poison because they’d lose you as a customer” doesn’t apply here, because often times the ones manufacturing the fake drugs are not the ones selling them to the end user. In fact, by the time they are consumed, they are well and truly out of the picture.

Fake drugs are prevalent all over the world. They are sold online and on street corners, and more worryingly they have also been found in government supply chains, with countries like Nigeria and China prosecuting government officials that have allowed fake drugs to enter the supply chain (which means they will ultimately be prescribed to unsuspecting users).

This is even an issue with widely prescribed weight loss drugs like phentramine, which has become the weight loss drug of choice in recent years. See this guide to what is phentramine to learn more and to discover why this is such a big issue and what you need to do to avoid buying fake products.

As for everything else, the general rule of thumb is not to buy anything online that requires a prescription and is classed as an illegal drug without one. While some drugs can be prescribed online by licensed doctors, no doctor in their right mind would use this process to prescribe opiates, benzodiazepines, and other dangerous drugs.

You should also try to trace the drug. We’re not here to tell you to “just say no”, but if you are going to use prescription narcotics acquired illegally, make sure you can take them. A lot of drugs in the supply chain come from pharmacists and doctors moonlighting as drug dealers, others come from patients selling their supply. These drugs will likely have prescriptions attached, with names, dates, etc., scribbled on the bottles/boxes.

Don’t assume that just because a drug is in a blister pack, boxed, and contains a leaflet it is genuine, as these are being faked as well.

As for weight loss drugs that don’t require prescriptions and are not classed as narcotics, just make sure the site is owned and operated by licensed doctors operating legally—all of which can be easily verified.

Finally, the US and EU have yet to have a major crisis with regards to fake drugs working their way into the official supply chain and being prescribed legally, so this is not yet something we need to worry about. It is more of an issue in poorer countries though, so if you live in one of these countries and think the drug you have been prescribed is fake, you may be right. Simply consult a doctor or medical professional—preferably not the pharmacist that supplied you with the drug.

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