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Counterfeit Drugs

Bottle of pills

Counterfeit (or fake) medicines are manufactured using incorrect or harmful ingredients. These medicines are then packaged and labeled to look like real brand-name and generic drugs. Counterfeit medicines are unsafe because they may not be effective or may even harm you.

Counterfeiting occurs throughout the world, but it is most common in countries where there are few or no rules about making drugs. An estimated 10%–30% of medicines sold in developing countries are counterfeit. In the industrialized world (countries such as the United States, Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and those in the European Union), estimates suggest that less than 1% of medicines sold are counterfeit.

The only way to know if a drug is counterfeit is through chemical analysis done in a laboratory. Counterfeit drugs may look strange or be in poor-quality packaging, but they often seem identical to the real thing. The only way to make sure you have the real thing is to bring all the drugs you will need during your trip with you from the United States, rather than buying them while you are traveling.

Pills being manufactured

If an emergency occurs and you must buy drugs during your trip, you can reduce your chances of buying drugs that are counterfeit:

  • Buy medicines only from licensed pharmacies and get a receipt. Do not buy medicines from open markets.
  • Ask the pharmacist whether the drug has the same active ingredient as the one that you were taking.
  • Make sure that the medicine is in its original packaging.
  • Look closely at the packaging. Sometimes poor-quality printing or otherwise strange-looking packaging will indicate a counterfeit product.
  • If you buy drugs online, visit Buying Prescription Medicines Online: A Consumer Safety Guide to learn how to buy safely.
 
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
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    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
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