The Health Dialoguer
Recently I attended a health round table discussion on complementary medicine. At the round table I learned that the active ingredients in complementary medicines are what determine their efficacy (whether they are effective or not). However not all active ingredients are produced in the same conditions. This means that not all products are created equal.
So, for instance St John’s wort which is commonly used to treat mild depression might be grown with limited chemical interference, in the highest of quality control standards or it might be grown hydroponically with the use of pesticides. All of these factors will have an impact upon whether the St John’s wort is as effective as possible in treating mild depression.
The way it is grown impacts upon the chemical compounds within the plant. So, in the case of St John’s wort, lower quality growing environments might lead to less of the compounds which help with mild depression. It can also lead to more of the qualities which have the ability to reduce the efficacy of the contraceptive pill. So, in a worse case scenario, if taking a low quality St John’s wort product you would end up with little benefit and negative interaction with other medications, like the contraceptive pill.
Not all medicines are created equal.
The same can be said for pharmaceutical medications. In Australia, our pharmaceuticals are regulated by the Therapeutics Goods Administration who have comparably high standards. This means that the medications dispensed to us are typically produced in highly sterile environments using high quality ingredients.
But the same cannot be said for medications produced elsewhere. This is why the trade of medications (both complementary and pharmaceutical) over the Internet is dangerous business.
While offers of cheap medications over the web might seem appealing, buyer beware.
The Age newspaper in Melbourne recently reported on this trend saying that “About 90 percent of counterfeit drugs are at some point marketed and or sold over the Internet.” The article claims that the counterfeit drug industry is estimated to be worth around $75 billion.
It is important for consumers to understand that while these drugs might look exactly the same, they are not. They are produced in sub-standard environments, with sub-standard ingredients. This means that at best, they won’t be as effective as their legitimate counterparts and at worst they could contain harmful ingredients.
So, the next time you see a family member of friend going for the jumbo size pack of fish oil or the half price paracetamol, make sure they understand that not all medicines are created equal.
Tips for safe medicine use:
- Always buy medicines from a pharmacy and ask your pharmacist for advice
- Never buy medications over the Internet
- Read the Consumer Medicine Information for all medications you consume
- For more information about medicines, visit NPS Medicinewise for independent, unbiased advice