With profits in the pharmaceutical industry ranging in the billions of dollars, there’s a lot of money to be made in drug counterfeiting. Far from being a victimless crime, counterfeit drugs leave a lot of consumers in danger as they take medication that either contains no active ingredients, different ingredients, or dangerous substances. Fortunately, there are a few ways to help protect yourself.

Match medication to its description

All prescription pill bottles in the U.S. have a short description of the medication they contain. This is usually identifiers like shape, color, and any letter or numerical markings that appear on the pills themselves. Always check to make sure that the contents of the bottle match their description, and be wary of bottles that don’t have clearly printed lot numbers or expiration dates.

Reject cracked, crumbling, or discolored pills

Some counterfeiters can mimic the appearance of genuine medications pretty closely, but their materials are often cheaper. This means they don’t hold together as well, and may crack, crumble, or yellow. If a pill looks genuine but appears old and crumbly, it may be a fake.

Know your sources

Only get your medication from a reputable source, like a hospital dispensary or local licensed pharmacist. Thanks to the Drug Quality and Security Act, it’s even possible to track the production and distribution of prescription drugs within the U.S.

Avoid obtaining prescriptions outside of the U.S.

It might be tempting to get cheaper medication online or overseas, but they may not be subjected to the same oversight in their source countries. If you do choose to have your prescriptions filled online, make sure the site displays a prominent VIPPS seal and is linked on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy website. If there is no seal or the online pharmacy doesn’t appear on the NABP’s list of approved pharmacies, avoid it.

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Report suspicious pills

If you obtain a drug that may be counterfeit, don’t just throw it away– report it to your doctor or the pill’s manufacturer. This will help aid an investigation into the source of the fake pills, and help put a stop to drug counterfeiting.

Fake medication can cost lives, so it’s important to be vigilant about it. By following these simple steps, you can help protect yourself and put an end to dangerous counterfeit pharmaceutical trafficking.