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Generic Drugs - Are There Counterfeit Generic Medications?

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Updated February 04, 2009

Question: Generic Drugs - Are There Counterfeit Generic Medications?

A comment and question from a reader: Dr. Mike, I’m afraid of generic drugs and would prefer to cut my budget somewhere else and get the real drug and hope that I am not about to swallow a counterfeit drug made in the dark back streets of China and sold to a dishonest drug merchant and then to unsuspecting pharmacies.

What are your thoughts?

Answer:

Although counterfeit medications are a problem, I'm not sure that I agree with your assumption about the threat of these “bad” medications winding up in U.S. pharmacies.

Ordering online from a disreputable pharmacy (either American or foreign) does put you at risk for getting a counterfeit drug. However, the chance of that happening in a local drugstore in the United States is minimal.

In fact, many generic medications are made in the United States or by the same drug companies that make brand name drugs. The largest generic drug company in the world is TEVA located in Tel Aviv, Israel. They have drug production standards as high as the United States.

As more generic medications are manufactured outside the United States, rare instances of poor manufacturing standards have caused too much or too little of a medication to be present in a pill. On occasion, this happens with well-known brand name medications as well. For example, in the late 1990s a well-known asthma inhaler was missing the medication’s active ingredient!

Although the box, bottle, or blister pack of medications you bought online or from a store or street vendor overseas may look real, beware! The makers of counterfeit drugs often try to mimic the look and packaging of popular and expensive brand name medications.

More Information about Counterfeit Drugs and Generic Drugs:

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