Did the pills prescribed by the doctor and for which you had to pay almost a week’s income did not help or caused unexpected side effects that were not indicated in the instructions? It is worth checking whether these pills were real. You can do this even if you are not a pharmacist and are far from a medical topic. Moreover, you can check whether your medicine is a “werewolf” right at the pharmacy. “The Secret of the Firm” collected ways not to throw away money on a fake (or marriage) and figured out where to run if you still bought it.
Carefully inspect the package and its contents
Many fakes have the same appearance as the original, but it will still not be superfluous to inspect the drug at the checkout. Experts interviewed by The Secret advise to see if the package is intact. And if there is an external sealed film-shell, it should not be re-soldered.
Check that the packaging contains all the required elements: the name of the medicine, series, expiration date, barcode and QR code or Data Matrix (they are very similar, the difference is most often in size and shape). The absence of any of them should alert.
In the same place, at the checkout, or already at home, check the contents of the package. The expiration date on the box and on the blister or vial must match.
Do not be too lazy to read the instructions – they indicate what the medicine should look like: if it is written that the tablets are flat with a risk, they cannot be round or without a risk.
The instruction itself must be printed in a printing house – not scanned. And, of course, no errors. For dietary supplements, all indications are often applied to the packaging itself, there may not be an insert.
But, even if at the checkout or at home the buyer found a shortage of pills in a blister, fuzzy letters in the instructions and other little things – this is not always a sign of a fake. It may be a simple marriage. The drug is not dangerous, but if you still don’t like something, you can refuse it when buying or return the already paid one. True, in order to return an already purchased one, you will have to prove that something is wrong with it. And if the problem is not an expired expiration date or a lack of pills in a blister, weighty evidence of poor quality will be needed. How to get them, we will tell below.
A quality drug usually has no problems with print quality, missing pill slots in the blister, lack of pills or liquid in the vial. Alexey Panait, deputy director of the Raduga pharmacy chain, says that manufacturers should promptly recall goods for any shortcomings, even small ones.
And if the package of conditional aspirin suddenly turned out to be not the usual white-green, but yellow-green, check with the pharmacist – perhaps the manufacturer simply redesigned it.
However, it is not difficult to fake the appearance of a product with high quality, so it is better not to be limited only to inspection.
Ask the pharmacist for documents
If you have any doubts about the authenticity of the medicine already at the time of purchase or after, ask the pharmacist for documents. By law, a pharmacy must show a copy of the declaration of conformity, its registration number and information about the authority that issued the declaration. You can see how these documents should look like on the RegisterInform website. The declaration is valid for no longer than 3 years. The document must indicate the registration certificate of Roszdravnadzor for the drug.
You can check the authenticity of the declaration and medicine in a special section of the FSA (Federal Accreditation Service).
In addition, drugs that entered circulation before November 29, 2019 must have a certificate of conformity. The manufacturer in the listed documents must be the same as that written on the package.
And for dietary supplements in a pharmacy there must be a certificate of state registration exclusively from Rospotrebnadzor. The number of the certificate and the name of the dietary supplement should be checked in the Unified Register of Rospotrebnadzor. If the system does not find the desired product, this is an alarm call.
If for some reason the pharmacy refuses to show you the quality documents for a particular drug, this is a violation – contact Rospotrebnadzor or Roszdravnadzor. If the documents were provided, but doubts about the quality remained, there is only one option – to go to the control and analytical laboratory and check the drug itself.
Go to the websites of the regulatory authorities
All relevant and complete information about drugs that can be sold in Russia is available on the websites of Roszdravnadzor and the State Register of Medicines. Both services are available to any mortal. You can check the drug that raises questions even before paying at the checkout and when buying online.
As Marina Zolotareva, head of the pharmaceutical control department at Sber Eapteka, explains, in order to check a medicine on the GRLS website, you need to enter the international name, trade name or registration certificate number from the package. The system will give out all the information about the drug: where it was produced, by whom, what the instructions look like, and so on.
Roszdravnadzor usually removes defective medicines from circulation. But by mistake, such a drug can get into the pharmacy. If there are suspicions that a medicine should not be on sale, it is worth checking it on the website of Roszdravnadzor in the search service for drugs withdrawn from circulation. Even pharmacies use it when receiving goods.
Enter the international nonproprietary name, series number, manufacturer’s name, or country of manufacture. You can also fill in multiple fields in the advanced search.
The service will issue a report-table, where it will show the drugs withdrawn from circulation. For example, according to the INN, “meldonium” issues several batches from different manufacturers with the status of “poor quality” and “doubtful” and with explanations of “manufacturer’s defect”, “falsification”, and so on. For each batch there is a link to the Roszdravnadzor information letter file with details.
In addition, Marina Zolotareva advises on the same site to go to the section “putting medicines into civil circulation”. By the name of the drug or its registration number, you can check whether such a series is on sale.
If in any of these services the medicine is on the list of dubious or substandard, it is not in the register put into circulation, you can safely refuse to purchase or issue a refund.
Along with the check and the goods, attach a copy of the information letter from the Roszdravnadzor service, which indicates the problem with the drug.
Punch the Data Matrix Code
At the end of 2019, the Chestny ZNAK mandatory marking verification system appeared. It is available in a smartphone application that is installed on any platform, takes a little more than 250 MB and helps to verify the authenticity of any product directly from a smartphone: from aspirin and a pack of milk to a jacket and a camera.
Scan the Data Matrix code through the app. The system can give different answers: – “The product is checked” – everything is in order, buy safely. If there are problems, questions are already to the doctor. – “The medicine is prohibited for sale” – it’s not a fact that it’s fake, but the product should not be in the pharmacy. – “Code not found” – it’s time to worry: there is a possibility that you have a fake.
Another application can say that the medicine has expired, it is not intended for sale, or it has already been sold by prescription on a certain date. You can report any of the problems without leaving the application: inside there is a form for contacting the supervisory authorities.
Vadim Storchak, a lawyer at the law firm Solntsev and Partners, says that the Data Matrix code cannot be faked – it was created on the basis of cryptotechnologies. “Inside it, an identification code is sewn in, which determines the position of the product in a single catalog, and a cryptotail is a verification code,” the expert explains.
Pharmacist Nadezhda Yershova adds that the Chestny ZNAK labeling system works stably only with medicines. With dietary supplements and medical products like compression underwear, it is not yet very effective.
An important nuance is that the labeling of medicines became mandatory in July 2020. If the drug was produced earlier, there will be no Data Matrix code, this is normal.
Any system can fail, the Chestny ZNAK application is no exception. “From a technical point of view, the application often works intermittently: it may not read the code or not turn on at all. And there are reviews on the Web that say that you should not unconditionally believe the results of the audit, ”says Vladislav Varshavsky, managing partner of the law firm Varshavsky and Partners.
What to do if you bought a fake medicine
Medicines are included in the list of goods that cannot be exchanged or returned, but they can still be returned if there are quality problems.
They are considered: – revealed marriage or forgery; – expired before purchase; – adverse reactions from the buyer, making the reception impossible.
As Tatyana Khodanovich, CEO of the Pharmedu service, explains, the expired expiration date and a noticeable visual discrepancy between the type of drug and its documents can be returned by referring to the law in the pharmacy. In other cases, you will have to confirm the reasons for the return.
How to prove that you have a marriage or a fake:
Through the website of Roszdravnadzor – if there is information there that the medicine is of poor quality: the batch is defective, withdrawn from circulation. You need to get a copy of this. For example, an information letter from the “discontinued drugs” section is suitable.
Through independent expertise in special organizations.
If the seller did not consider the appeal or refused to accept the problematic product, the lawyers interviewed by The Secret advise going to Rospotrebnadzor or Roszdravnadzor. And if no one punishes the guilty there, the direct road to court is with a claim for the return of money spent on the medicine, for the examination, for the treatment of adverse reactions.
Vladislav Varshavsky advises, in addition to Rospotrebnadzor and Roszdravnadzor, to apply to other regulatory authorities before the trial. These are the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ministry of Health. But in any case, you first need to get official confirmation of a fake or marriage. Without them, you will be brushed aside.
And Vadim Storchak, a lawyer at the law firm Solntsev and Partners, adds that the buyer can demand full compensation for the losses that he suffered due to low-quality goods. For example, if he had a side effect.
According to experts interviewed by The Secret, there are fewer counterfeit drugs in Russia due to tougher checks, including the introduction of Data Matrix labeling. But despite this, caution is still worth exercising. Buy only in pharmacies and stores with a license, and not by hand, inspect the medicine at the checkout, punch through the Data Matrix code through the application, check by name or series on the websites of Roszdravnadzor and GRLS. And if there are problems with the medicine, feel free to send information to Rospotreb- or Roszdravnadzor.
Collage: “Top Secret”, unsplash.com/National Cancer Institute, /Hal Gatewood, /National Cancer Institute