Pharmacists working at national levels

What are pharmacists doing to fight counterfeit medicines around the world?

As the final member of the pharmaceutical distribution chain, pharmacists are key in detecting and dealing with counterfeit medicines. Through their everyday interactions with patients and the public, they are a valuable channel of communication to raise awareness on the risks of counterfeit medicines. Around the world, pharmacists have been taking part in the fight against counterfeit medicines.

Argentina (2011)

The Confederación Farmacéutica Argentina and the College of Pharmacists of the Federal Capital organised a campaign promoting awareness on the rational use of medicines and the issue of counterfeits. Launched under the name NODOLEM 400, it brought focus to how people and the authorities react.

43,000 free samples of an alleged drug Nodolem were distributed in seven areas of the Buenos Aires (Retiro Belgrano, downtown, Obelisk, Palermo, Ciudad Universitaria and Costa Salguero), and also in the Puerto de Frutos region. The sample, in fact, contained a confectionary, a message "Danger! Drugs are not candies! If this were a drug you'd be putting yourself at risk", and a recommendation to purchase medicines only in pharmacies. It was supported by television and internet spots. The campaign showed that 95% of people did not ask what the product or its components were, and nobody asked about side effects.


Austria (2010)

The Austrian Ministry of Finances (Bundesministerium für Finanzen) partnered with the Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists (Österreichische Apothekerkammer) to organise a nationwide campaign to inform patients and the public on the dangers of buying counterfeit medicines over the internet.
The key message of the campaign was: stay on the safe side of health, don't buy medicines over the internet.

This campaign consisted of:

- A website to explain the dangers of buying counterfeit medicines over the internet
- Social media activities and an online video
- Radio and cinema commercials
- Information messages in regional media

All pharmacies gave out patient leaflets on Austria’s Pharmacists Day (5 October). In total, 450 000 patients visited a pharmacy on that day and 250 000 patients leaflets were handed out.


On the Austrian Pharmacists Day (5 October 2010), all Austrian pharmacies disseminated patient leaflets. In total, 450 000 patients visited a pharmacy on that day and 250 000 patients leaflets were disseminated.


Cote d’Ivoire (2007)

The Pharmaceutical Society of Côte-d’Ivoire (Conseil national de l’Ordre des pharmaciens de Côte d’Ivoire) launched a campaign against counterfeit medicines in order to raise awareness of both the general public and the government of the risks. Special focus was given to the risk associated with buying medicines from illegal sources. This campaign was relayed on the radio, TV and at pharmacy levels.

Further to this activity, the conseil was attacked by armed men, demonstrating that its actions were not only a threat for counterfeiters but that they were effective. Despite this attack, the conseil has continued its fight for the safety of Ivorian patients.




France (2007)

The French Council of Pharmacists (Ordre national des Pharmaciens) together with the French drug regulatory authority (Agence Française de Sécurité sanitaire des produits de santé) developed a guide for pharmacists on counterfeit medicines. This was launched through a communication campaign. A patient information leaflet on counterfeit medicines was also developed for use during the campaign.


Germany (2009)

The Federal Union of German Pharmacists Association (Bundesvereinigung Deutscher Apothekerverbände, ABDA) organised a national campaign to raise public awareness of the risks of counterfeit medicines obtained over the internet. Communication consisted of a video clip (broadcasted over the internet and in cinemas) as well as free postcards disseminated in restaurants, discos and bars.


Lebanon (2008)

The Lebanese Council of Pharmacists (Ordre des Pharmaciens du Liban) together with the Lebanese Minister of Health, the FIP-WHO EMRO Pharm Forum and the CIOPF (Conférence Internationale des Ordres de Pharmaciens Francophones) launched a campaign on counterfeit medicines. There were several elements, in addition to TV spots:

Guide for pharmacists: English version French version  
Posters of the campaign: English version French version  
Patient leaflet: English version French version Arabic version

In addition to these activities, the campaign was strengthened by TV spots:


Spain (2008, 2011)

As part of a strategy developed by the Spanish Ministry of Health called "Estrategia frente a los medicamentos falsificados", the General Council of Pharmacists (Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Farmacéuticos) and the ministry signed an agreement for an ever stronger collaboration in the fight against counterfeit medicines.

This agreement covered:

- The dissemination of the campaign "Prevención de la venta ilegal de medicamentos en Internet" to patients in order to raise awareness on the risks of counterfeit medicines over the internet (click here to access the campaign website)

- Training materials for community and hospital pharmacists to facilitate the detection of possible counterfeit medicines.

- Procedures to ensure the legality of the suppliers of medicines to pharmacies

In 2011, the Consejo de Colegios Profesionales de Farmacéuticos de Castilla y León organised a campaign to warn patients about the risk of buying medicines over the internet. The key message was combined with a solution: always buy your medicines from your local community pharmacy. This was relayed through posters and leaflets disseminated in community pharmacies.


Switzerland (2011)

PharmaSuisse launched a campaign against counterfeit medicines where 760 pharmacies offered to test medicines bought by patients via internet. This campaign was a continuation of a previous campaign with the Swiss drug regulatory agency called “Stop Piracy Day”.

150 medicines were analysed with alarming results: in more than a half of the medicines the active ingredient was missing or was lower than declared. Some of the medicines contained unregistered ingredients (e.g. hydroxythiosildenafil, which presents a high risk for patients with cardiovascular diseases).


United Kingdom (2006, 2008, 2009)

In 2006, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society together with the English drug regulatory authority (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) developed a guide on counterfeit medicines for pharmacists. This was updated in 2008. 

In 2009, the RPS together with Heart UK, Pfizer, the Patient's Association and the MHRA organised a campaign to warn patients on the dangers of buying fake medicines from unregulated websites. Posters were displayed in 3,000 locations in the UK, advertisements were run in the media and roadshows held in seven major UK cities.


USA (since 2000)

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) developed a website to provide information to patients on safe medication, aiming to provide tips and advice, including on recognising counterfeits.


Page updated 18 November 2014