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Beware of fake drugs! If you're going to buy drugs, whether for your health or for your entertainment, it's important to be sure that it really is the real thing!
Pharmaceuticals on sale in spam, sometimes where the spelling is deliberately wrong so as to deceive spam filters, highlight a problem much bigger than it just being a swindle or a scam.
Sometimes, if you order stuff by spam, you might pay your money and get nothing. But this whole problem of counterfeit medications gets a lot worse than tablets made of chalk; you might get fake drugs which can have ongoing problematical effects.
The fake drugs were initially just counterfeit pharmaceuticals which were a placebo, and the effect was to fool the customer into thinking they were taking something effective when in fact it was just chalk or sugar pills, or some other approximately neutral substance.
To be fair to spam senders, they are currently (2011) pushing only a few types of drugs, and whether they work or not, the only downside is likely to be the swindling of a few people out of their money. Dishonest, but there are other things which are worse.
In a more general overview of the fake drugs business, there is a much nastier side to it. Fake vaccines, fake cures for diseases, etc. The people who made fake drugs, backed by organised crime, went a step further than marketing dummy medicines, and introduced small amounts of the real drug into the fakes. This was presumably just a business decision to make the fake drugs more realistic when tested chemically.
In some types of medicaments, the result was just a simple deception, where quantities of medicine were imported into countries, and were ineffective. In some cases this was more serious, as it resulted in deaths, as people who were sick were given remedies which did not work.
The problem of fake drugs goes much further than the death toll through ineffective treatment, diseases contracted because of non-functional vaccines, and trouble caused by relying on drugs which later proved to be without the correct active ingredients. With vaccines, a small amount of the drug (as a trace to fool the testing systems) can give the disease the ability to evolve resistance to the vaccine. In effect this undermines the collective immunity of humankind against diseases.
(To see how this happens, consider what would happen if you applied a mild dose of pesticide to a plague of bugs. It would not simply fail to kill all the bugs, but would preferentially kill those bugs which had less resistance, so allowing the more resistant strains of bugs to prevail and pass on their pesticide resistance to the next generation).
The ultimate upshot of this is a dreaded scenario where drugs which are genuine and well utilised in the world, and are currently effective in combating disease, might at some time become ineffective. This could, in some circumstances, lead to a worldwide epidemic. A disease which medical science had previously cured, could adapt, and become widespread.
What's to be done about it?
* Awareness: If more people know about the existence of the problem, it's less likely to slip through.
* Better testing: For large consignments, it's worth a more advanced scientific test to check the dose level rather than just the presence of the drug.
* Sensibleness: Legislation should not be there to tell you what drugs you can and can't take. Instead, it should concentrate on the more important issue of quality control.
Note: The online pharmacies at this site are believed to supply genuine stuff, as per the fact that they have been in business for years!
Also see: never buy from spam, and the curious item about fake memory
The inappropriate prescription of antibiotics has also had a big knock-on effect in which the efficacy of antibiotics has been undermined.