Counterfeit prescription drugs
Learn about counterfeit prescription drugs, their risks to youth and how we try to prevent them.
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About counterfeit prescription drugs
Counterfeit drugs are not approved by Health Canada.
They are made to look like brand name or generic prescription drugs to hide how they were produced and what they contain.
Counterfeit drugs are not safe or effective, as they can be made with:
- too much of the correct medicinal ingredients
- not enough of the correct ingredients
- no correct ingredients
Counterfeit drugs can contain hidden ingredients that can seriously harm your health, including:
- toxic chemicals
- other prescription drugs
- street drugs, such as illegally produced:
Know what you are taking
If you take a medication, make sure you know your dosage and what your drug looks like. Find information on your prescription drug on the Drug and Health Product Register.
Contact your pharmacist if your drug suddenly has a different:
Avoid counterfeit prescription drugs
Buy your medications from licensed pharmacies only. Look for an 8-digit drug identification number (DIN) on the product label, or ask your pharmacist or health care provider for this information.
Counterfeit prescription drugs can look identical to approved prescription drugs.
Don't get drugs from:
- drug dealers
- online sources that are not appropriately licensed
- other non-licensed sources
Risks to youth
With the growing concern over recreational prescription drug use among youth, it is important to talk about drugs with teenagers. Help them understand the risks of taking prescription drugs other than as prescribed and the dangers associated with counterfeit drugs.
Prescription drugs are the third most common substance misused by Canadian youth (after alcohol and cannabis). In 2016, over 80,000 Canadian teenagers used prescription drugs to get high. Youth may also use counterfeit drugs, knowingly or unknowingly. These drugs can contain additional unknown contents that can lead to serious harm.
If you or someone you know needs support for problematic substance use or addiction, get help. Also, learn the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose and be prepared to help save a life.
Preventing counterfeit prescription drugs
We are committed to stopping the production and import of counterfeit drugs in Canada.
The RCMP, CBSA and Health Canada are fighting counterfeit products through:
- Operation Pangea
- assessing and taking action based on consumer complaints
- compliance verification at the border
- laboratory analyses in support of compliance and law enforcement activities
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