Raising awareness of counterfeit drugs

By Vivian Berni

Background: There is no guarantee that medicinal products bought online are effective, authentic or even safe. Their quality is questionable as they may contain the wrong amount of active ingredients or no active ingredients at all. In all circumstances, counterfeit medicines are manufactured secretly with no quality assurance under the most deplorable conditions. The criminals manufacturing counterfeit medicines may use any chemical or material that will help them imitate the look, texture, and taste of a generic or branded product. As a result, fake medicines can cause harm to patients and sometimes even lead to death.

Patients shopping online are especially susceptible to purchasing their prescription drugs from generic, questionable sources in their hope of saving money while meeting their health needs. To take on this large-scale challenge, Stay Safe Pharma will focus on assisting low and middle income patients, including college students, residing in South Florida to become aware of the danger of counterfeit drugs and the risks associated with online medicine purchases.

Birth of an Idea: Stay Safe Pharma originates from my experience working in supply chain within the Life Sciences and Health Care sector. Having attended conferences on security, supply chain integrity, and good distribution practice, you learn about the complexities involved in getting patients access to safe medicines. One day I was emptying out my spam email; I recall receiving a message that prompted me to purchase medicines at discounted rates. The website was odd. No contact details or phone provided. The website even claimed no prescription was necessary. What was happening here? That’s when I realized how easy it was for anyone to be lured into buying cheap, unregulated medications online.

Steps Taken: As a GWU graduate student in Public Health, I’ve completed a course in Social and Behavioral Approaches to Health. As my final project, I successfully developed a Stay Safe Pharma intervention utilizing a logic model and it’s respective constructs. This will be providing me with a fantastic foundation to carry out my commitment to action.

Next Steps: Start seeking out partners to support my initiative!

CGI U Experience: As a University of Miami Alumni, it was a wonderful experience to revisit my Alma Matter, and what better way than through the Clinton Global Initiative University. The energy was vibrant, students from across the globe representing different nationalities and ideas. It was contagious. I am fortunate to have been able to represent George Washington University.

CGI U Highlights: Meeting Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami, once again as an alumni. Being present during Han Rosling’s the Power of Big Data, ‘‘If you do not know the present, you cannot think about the future.’’ Hearing from experts about ‘‘The Future of Energy,’’ concept of interconnected environment. Networking with students and learning about what inspires and motivates them.