Fighting Against Falsified Medicine

Published on: April 5, 2021


Medicine is not just another product. Without strict quality standards and controls from the pharma industry and health authorities, medications offer no guarantee of quality, safety or therapeutic efficacy and can put lives in danger.

What is a falsified medicine?

According to the World Health Organization, “falsified” medical products are those "that deliberately or fraudulently misrepresent their identity, composition or source."

Medicine falsification knows neither borders nor limits and impacts all countries, patients of all ages, all therapeutic areas, human medicine, vaccines and veterinary medicine. National and international criminal organizations are quick to take advantage of the very strong financial gains to be had in medicine falsification.

Real risks for your health

Falsified medical products are illegal and nearly always a threat to health. They can cause treatment failure, harmful effects and sometimes death for patients who take them.

An estimated 1 in 10 medical products in low- and middle-income countries is substandard or falsified1

(1) WHO, Global Surveillance and Monitoring system, 2017; (2) IRACM and Interpol, 2020; (3) Almost New Zealand or Greece GDP – IRACM, 2020; (4) NABP and ASOP EU, 2020

How do we fight falsification?

Sanofi is committed to safeguarding the integrity and traceability of its products and being a solid partner in the global fight against falsified medicine.

Since its creation in 2008, its Central Anti-Counterfeiting Laboratory has recorded over 43,000 suspect products. 

In this fight, Sanofi:

  • works together with local authorities and professional organizations to raise awareness among health professionals and patients about the risks of falsified medicine;
  • cooperates with judicial and health authorities, customs and other pharmaceutical companies in efforts to seize potentially harmful products and shut down clandestine production facilities and websites selling fake drugs;
  • develops innovative solutions to protect and guarantee the authenticity of our products.

Best practices to protect yourself

The visual examination

A falsified medicine is difficult to detect. Some falsified medical products are visually identical to genuine products and are very difficult to detect. However, it is recommend that you:

  • examine the product packaging to verify its soundness and tamper resistance;
  • verify the manufacture and expiration dates, ensuring that the dates on the outer packaging match those on the inner packaging; 
  • making sure that the product looks like it should, that there is no discoloration, degradation or unusual odor;
  • and, if you have the slightest suspicion (unusual treatment effect or conditioning, spelling errors in the notice, etc.), ask your pharmacist for advice as soon as possible, especially if you buy medicines on the Internet.

What you should know before buying from e-pharmacies or online sites

Fifteen European countries have authorized the sale of medicines from pharmacies on the Internet with the goal of easing patient access to medicine. However, a large number of websites operate illegally, offering over-the-counter medicines usually sold by prescription, and selling unapproved or falsified products.

Being able to discriminate the good from the bad is vital.

Make sure you: 

  • Purchase your medicine from your country's official online pharmacies. Health authorities publish lists of authorized online pharmacies. In Europe, online pharmacies must display the common logo to all EU member states.
  • Avoid websites that sell prescription drugs without asking for a prescription (depending on the country), and that offer a prescription without a medical examination. A questionnaire is not enough.
  • Do not communicate any personal and medical information to the site.

Preparing for your trip

In some areas of the world, falsified medicine can infiltrate official distribution channels (pharmacies, dispensaries, etc.) or illicit distribution channels (street markets, etc.). Protect yourself by being prepared:

Before your trip

Prepare your travel kit and take the necessary amount of medication for the duration of your trip, including medical prescriptions.

During your trip

In case of health problems, consult a doctor (a list will be available in the embassies) before you buy any medication, which must be made only through official distribution channels.