Beware fake drugs that kill: Malaysia

PETALING JAYA - Some of the counterfeit drugs being sold in the country are dangerous and can kill, according to the Health Ministry.

The pharmacy enforcement division said a Bill was being drafted to increase the penalties for selling counterfeit drugs.

Division director Mohd Hatta Ahmad said that sex stimulants, painkillers and cough mixtures were among the drugs being counterfeited and sold cheaper than the genuine stuff.

The division had found that these fake products and others such as eye drops, cold preparations and ointments, were being sold in traditional medicine and sundry shops and roadside stalls, he told The Star.

The counterfeit products that it had seized were either manufactured locally or brought in from countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, India and China, he said.

Mohd Hatta Ahmad warned that consuming counterfeit sexual stimulants that contain sildenafil, tadalafil and verdanafil or slimming agents containing sibutramine without proper supervision from a medical doctor or pharmacist "can lead to serious consequences".

"These counterfeit drugs can even cause death as they may destroy the body's vital organs and are also reported to cause mental disorders."

Mohd Hatta stressed that all pharmaceutical products must be registered with the ministry before being marketed.

Fomca chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj advised the public to buy medication only from established premises and to obtain a doctor's prescription.

"If a medicine is cheaper, be suspicious. There must be a reason why it is cheaper," he said.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr S.R. Manalan said the onus was on the consumer to be wary.

"As long as you buy medicine bearing the Health Ministry's registration number, there is nothing to worry about," he said.

On the new Bill, Mohd Hatta said that it would define clearly counterfeit medicinal products and provide for penalties of up to 10 times stiffer than the current punishment.

The division's statistics indicate that the sale of counterfeit drugs is not widespread, fortunately, and mostly involves popular over-the-counter and prescription medications of particular interest such as Viagra and Cialis.

"Recent studies have revealed the prevalence of counterfeit medicines to be between 3 per cent and 6 per cent in the market," Mohd Hatta said.

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