Patient Solidarity Day heightens the campaign against falsified medicines by “Fight the Fakes”

Thursday, 14 December 2017

By "Fight the Fakes"

One in ten medical products circulating in low- and middle-income countries is either substandard or falsified, according to latest WHO figures. It is estimated that somewhere between 72,000 and 169,000 children may die each year from pneumonia due to substandard and falsified antibiotics. But how many patients across the world really know and understand the enormous public health threat of falsified medicines?

The theme for this year’s Patient Solidarity Day of patient empowerment through knowledge resonated strongly with Fight the Fakes campaign. Supported by 35 organizations worldwide, including professional associations, NGOs and academia, Fight the Fakes gives a voice to those who have been impacted by falsified medicines and shares the stories of those working to put a stop to this public health threat. Awareness raising and global patient empowerment are at the heart of what we do. Addressing falsified medicines requires general education and knowledge of the dangers. Everyone should have the tools and sufficient education on what they can do if they suspect a medicine to be falsified and how to challenge policymakers to prioritize and act on this important issue. Fight the Fakes social media and website act as a hub of knowledge and tools to empower patients across the globe.

So, what is a falsified medicine and why should you care?

Falsified medicines may contain no active ingredient, the wrong active ingredient or the wrong amount of active ingredient. More often than not, they are produced in poor or unhygienic conditions by unqualified people. Moreover, they are difficult to detect as they are usually designed to appear identical to the genuine product.

The best outcome for patients exposed to fake medicines is that the medicine simply doesn’t work, and it is money wasted. But it can be much worse. Fake drugs can contain poisonous substances that worsen a patient’s condition or even result in death or disability. Fake medicines also contribute to anti-microbial resistance, which has led to drug resistant malaria and tuberculosis. If we don’t take a stand against fake medicines, we will never be able to wipe-out malaria or other life threatening yet treatable conditions.

Nearly any type of pharmaceutical product can be and has been falsified: whether 'lifestyle' medicines, including erectile dysfunction and weight loss medicines, or lifesaving medicines such as those used to treat malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening conditions. Manufacturers of fake medicines do not discriminate. Fake medicines can be both long established and recently marketed medicines, both branded and generic, and both domestically manufactured and imported.

Patient exposure to falsified medication is a chronic public health issue that results in delayed care, disease progression, increased mortality and antimicrobial resistance. It also contributes to distrust of government, health care systems, and health care professionals. In short, it is a crime against patients. Every patient has the right to receive medications that are safe, effective, and legitimate. Falsified medicines know no borders, they can impact anyone, anywhere.  

To combat this issue, we encourage increasing awareness to patients and stakeholders and elevating the seriousness to the World Health Organisation. We are building a global movement of organizations and individuals who will shine a light on the negative impact that fake medicines have on people around the globe and educate and empower the public. Fake medicines are everybody’s business.

Do you want to join the fight and lend your support to the campaign? Are you interested in becoming a partner? Do you have a story to tell? Contact us at