Falsified or counterfeit medicines are recognised as an important issue by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). As pharmacy professionals, we are in a key position to explain to patients that there are potential risks associated with their use, and we have an ethical responsibility to do so.
I would like to raise awareness of a recent event related to a potential counterfeit or falsified medicine.
A patient in our region purchased an oral antibiotic preparation from a local Eastern European supermarket. The patient had taken a dose before attending an outpatient appointment. The patient explained to the medical team overseeing their care that they had bought the product “over the counter” without a prescription.
Our pharmacy department was contacted by the medical team informing us of this. The medical team gained consent for the preparation to be taken off the patient. On examination, the product packaging looked very convincing.
The proposed manufacturer of the product was contacted. Upon doing so, it was explained that the product batch number was not recorded on their system, and that the product was not made by them.
Local police services were informed; an incident report was filled in, along with an electronic yellow card on the MHRA website, which enables reports for “fake medicines” to be made.
We are writing to remind colleagues to be aware that patients may find alternative sources of medicinal products, and to report these where possible. It is important to inform patients of the potential unknown risks of using such products, because their quality and safety cannot be guaranteed.
Medicines Information Service Manager
The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust