Ways to check for counterfeit medicine in M'sia

PETALING JAYA - The public can check whether a medicine is counterfeit via several methods.

The Meditag decoder allows users to check the authenticity of the hologram label found on the product.

It is a tool provided by the Health Ministry's pharmacy enforcement division and is available at licensed pharmacies.

Another way is to verify the registration number printed on the outer packaging by going to www.bpfk.gov.my and searching the "registered product" bar.

Both the Meditag hologram and registration number can be traced and linked to a particular importer or manufacturer.

But it is the duty of enforcement officers to verify any matter should any complaint or suspicion arise.

"While there is now no specific definition for counterfeit medicinal products in the Acts enforced by the division, the definition provided by the World Health Organisation is sufficient for operational and administrative purposes," division director Mohd Hatta Ahmad said.

The definition used is: "counterfeit medicine is one which is deliberately and fraudulently mislabelled with respect to identity and/or source.

"Counterfeiting can apply to both branded and generic products and counterfeit products may include products with the correct ingredients or with the wrong ingredients, without active ingredients, with insufficient active ingredients or with fake packaging."

Explaining the difference between the terms, Mohd Hatta said that "fake" was used by the layman to describe a product that was not genuine while "counterfeit" had a more technical meaning and wider definition.

"Essentially, there is no practical difference between fake and counterfeit medicines," he said.

"The term fake medicines' is normally used for popular products that have their identity (appearance or labels) stolen. It is actually a subset' of counterfeit medicine. Counterfeits, by definition, may also include those falsely declared, thereby reducing the integrity of its contents, origin and manufacturer."

In Malaysia, counterfeit medicines were legally categorised as unregistered medicines with cases of counterfeit medicinal products being investigated and charged as unregistered products under the Sales of Drug Act, Mohd Hatta said.

Currently, a person found guilty under the Act can be fined not exceeding RM25,000 or jailed for up to three years or both. For a second or subsequent offence, the person can be fined not more than RM50,000 (S$19,891) or imprisoned for a maximum of five years or both. A corporate body can be fined not exceeding RM50,000 for the first offence and not more than RM100,000 for the second.

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