A top of the fold article in today’s New York Times talks about the surge of counterfeit drugs that have flooded the European and American marketplace. It blames the recent establishment of Free Trade Zones that are characterized by little government oversight and regulations.

Three months ago there was an announcement that authorities had seized a large cache of counterfeit drugs. The drugs were traced back to China. After winding their way from China through Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the Bahamas the drugs were marketed by an internet pharmacy. The internet pharmacy claimed that the drugs came from Canada.

Over the last two to three years there has been a huge controversy in the United States surrounding the high price Americans are forced to pay for their drugs. The same drugs manufactured by the same company can often be purchased in Canada for 40%, or even less, then in the U.S.

Many groups of senior citizens have organized bus trips to Canadian pharmacies in order to take advantage of the significant savings. As the use of the internet explodes, people have turned to “on line” purchasing of their “Canadian” drugs.

Now the safety and efficacy of these purchases need to be questioned. It is impossible to determine if your internet drug purchases are are going to be what you expected. We all have followed the constant recalls of toys manufactured in China. With this in mind, how can you purchase your drugs with this great question looming? I would not trust these purchases and neither should you.

Most of us have worked very hard to modify our diets and add the proper supplements. We go to the gym, participate in support groups and hopefully advocated for research support, so how can we ingest pills without really knowing what is actually in them?

Be frugal, but be careful. Don’t risk your life by taking conterfeit medications.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW