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Pfizer launches ‘catfish’ counterfeit medicines campaign

Pfizer has announced the launch of a UK-wide campaign dubbed “Don’t be catfished by counterfeit medicines”.

The campaign, which is targeted specifically at students, focuses mainly on Xanax (alprazolam), aiming to raise awareness amongst young people who are increasingly buying counterfeit medicines online, unaware of the serious risks they are taking.

The company says that the campaign reflects how easy it is to be fooled when purchasing these products online, and will be run across Facebook and Instagram.

Neville Broad, lab research manager at Pfizer said that the company is “taking the threats of counterfeit medicines into account for the utmost patient safety, coming up with new digital material in order to educate the public about the dangers of the medicines.”

Reminding the public about the potential dangers of the fake treatments, he told PharmaTimes: “In the best case counterfeit medicines just don’t work, but in the worst case scenario they can kill you. We’ve seen all sorts of variations of counterfeits – ones that don’t contain the active ingredient of a drug, ones that contain too much or too little, other ingredients that might not be correct, in turn making the therapeutic effectiveness and safety of the drug totally incorrect and spurious.

“First and foremost, we advise that patients go to their GP and get medicines through the prescription route, but asides from that they need to be looking at registered websites that are MHRA licensed and approved. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid it. If it’s advertised as a cheap drug or advertised without packaging, that’s definitely a danger area.”

Dr Broad also confirmed that multiple drugs in the Pfizer portfolio have been attempted to be counterfeited. Mainly lifestyle drugs such as Viagra (sildenafil), but also more recently life-saving drugs – even into the anti-cancer remit.