Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Beware of counterfeit drugs, pharmacists warn

Published:Saturday | February 2, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Jamaicans have been put on alert about a black market of counterfeit drugs that could have deadly consequences for pill-popping patients.

In a Gleaner interview yesterday, Dr Ernestine Watson, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica (PSJ), said that the unregistered and unbranded medication could pose serious health risks, noting that in some instances, they contain toxic substances.

“If you ever Google ‘counterfeit drugs’ and see where some of these drugs are made, it will sick your stomach. We have to protect our patients,” Watson declared.

The PSJ, in a statement issued on Thursday, also said that it viewed with great concern increasing reports from its members that prescriptions are being filled and offered for sale by unauthorised persons.

“This puts the patients at serious risk from errors from dispensing, the risk of counterfeit or otherwise unfit medications being dispensed, and many other costly, disastrous consequences.”

“Let me tell you of something that I personally experienced, where a patient came to me asking if I can tell them what is in this medication. So I took the tablets, and I was trying to read it. Not one word of English! I could not understand anything,” the PSJ president revealed.

Watson said that the patient told her that the drug had been obtained from “someone who sold it to them in Jamaica”.


Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch, Fitz Bailey, said his team was willing to have dialogue with the PSJ on the matter.

The PSJ is urging Jamaicans to accept prescriptions from licensed prescribers only and to have these prescriptions filled by licensed pharmacists at registered pharmacies.

“The Society is, therefore, asking all members of the public to be vigilant in protecting your health and the health of your loved ones. Before you purchase medications from a prescription, ask to see the relevant licences,” the pharmaceutical body said.

Further, the PSJ is cautioning against purchasing drugs that are not properly labelled and packaged.

Pharmacists are the only health professionals who are licensed under the Pharmacy Act to be in charge of medications for distribution and retail sale at the request of a licensed prescriber. The law separates the roles of the medical doctor and the pharmacist. These medications must be stored for sale in a duly registered pharmacy under the supervision of a registered pharmacist as specified in the Pharmacy Act.

Safety tips from the PSJ:

• Purchase medication from a licensed pharmacy with a licensed pharmacist on duty.

• Don’t accept packages of medications without proper labels.

• Ask to speak with your pharmacist if you have any questions about your medications.

• If you are unsure about the legality of the establishment, ask to see the current licence of the pharmacist and that of the pharmacy.