WHAT IS A COUNTERFEIT DRUG?
Counterfeit drugs are fake or imitation medicine made to resemble the authentic approved product in terms of the drug and/or the packaging. Counterfeit drugs are illegal and may be harmful to a person’s health because they:
- may be contaminated or contain the wrong or no active pharmaceutical ingredient.;
- could have the right active ingredient but at the wrong dose; or
- contain harmful ingredients or impurities.
These drugs increase mortality and morbidity, engender drug resistance and cause economic losses to patients, health systems and the pharmaceutical industry.
RISK OF PURCHASING A COUNTERFEIT DRUG
In Singapore, counterfeit drugs are confined to products that exist outside the legal supply chain. The danger comes with the lure of cheaper medicines and the choice of different brands of medicines over the Internet or overseas. Products purchased over the Internet are a major and growing source of counterfeit drugs in many developed countries. Consumers who do not want a consultation with a doctor may also knowingly purchase illegal drugs such as erectile dysfunctional drugs from illegal street peddlers.
Read more: Illegal sex drugs: Demands on the rise, despite health issues (source: MIMS)
CAN THE CONSUMER DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN A COUNTERFEIT DRUG AND ITS AUTHENTIC COUNTERPART?
With technological advances, counterfeiters are often able to make their fake products look almost identical, if not better looking than the authentic product. It is often difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to differentiate the authentic from the fake with their naked eye, even when comparing the two products side by side.
FORENSIC ANALYSIS OF COUNTERFEIT DRUGS
The objective of our laboratory analysis is to characterise the drug and its packaging, determine their authenticity, and provide linkages between suspected counterfeit samples to provide investigative leads on the source of the drugs.
A battery of instrumental techniques such as optical and scanning electron microscopy, spectroscopy, chromatography and mass spectrometry are used to provide the chemical fingerprints of the drugs and their packaging.
WHAT OUR EXPERTS DO FOR COUNTERFEIT DRUGS CASES
For individual clients, we can assist in giving peace of mind by determining the authenticity of the sample you have purchased, and whether it contains harmful ingredients.
For law enforcement, government laboratories, commercial investigators or legal practitioners of pharmaceutical companies seeking an independent and authoritative analysis, we are here to assist you in safeguarding your reputation by providing expert opinion on whether a suspected product from covert or overt operations is a counterfeit.
WHY THE FORENSIC EXPERTS GROUP?
We believe that good, robust science is fundamental to our mission and to your needs. While heading the Forensic Science Division at the Health Sciences Authority, TFEG’s senior forensic scientists pioneered and developed counterfeit drugs analysis as a distinctive forensic discipline in Singapore, successfully applying the expertise to analyse drug samples seized locally and from Operation Storm – an operation led by INTERPOL. We also have extensive experience in providing expert court testimonies.
To find out more about the challenges in the analysis and interpretation of counterfeit medicines, read our article “Counterfeit Medicines” featured in the Feb 2017 issue of the Singapore Law Gazette.
Please call us at 6459 0494 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to have your questions answered.