Amazon Pharmacy and Fake Drug Market

  • Amazon launched the online pharmacy service in the fall of the 2020.
  • Last year, Amazon established Counterfeit Crimes Unit.
  • The Advil I received the bottle label differed.

In the fall of  last year, Amazon launched online pharmaceutical services, Amazon Pharmacy. According to the Amazon Pharmacy website, the services are available for customers over the age of 18. The customer has to create a separate account for Amazon Pharmacy. It should be noted that Prime savings can be applied at Amazon Pharmacy as well.

The Amazon pharmacy main page.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, I have been mostly shopping online, and instead of heading to the drug store, I decided to order Advil online. My Prime membership allows guaranteed two-day delivery.

I opted to order Advil. I placed an order via the main Amazon page and did not utilize the Amazon Pharmacy service. Advil arrived within two days. The item arrived on time and the packaging seemed intact. The cardboard box did not look any different to me.

However, when I looked at the plastic bottle itself, I noticed the information was not in English on the label. For example, in Canada, the label is usually in English and French, since Canada has two official languages. In the US, the label is in English and Spanish. In this case, the label was not in English. I got concerned and decided to do additional research on the product.

The Google search engine seemed like the best option. First, I looked at the images of the Advil bottles, then decided to search for articles or news releases regarding non-prescription Advil. Interestingly, there is a real problem with “fake” medication. To note, Advil brand is manufactured by Pfizer.

According the Pfizer global security, counterfeit versions of over 80 medicines have been confirmed in more than 110 countries. Pfizer launched an aggressive campaign to fight counterfeit Pfizer medicines. Pfizer even launched the campaign “Fight the Fakes,” which is aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of the fake medicines.

Interestingly, last summer, Amazon launched a new counterfeit crimes unit. The release states:

“Amazon is launching a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit, dedicated to bringing counterfeiters attempting to list counterfeit products in its store to justice. The global team, made up of former federal prosecutors, experienced investigators, and data analysts, will support the company’s substantial efforts already underway to protect its store from counterfeits.”

Pfizer campaign to fight the counterfeit medication.

In addition, Amazon claims that the conglomerate was able to block 2.5 million bad actors, who were involved in selling the counterfeit products.

In the case with my order, I opted to dispose of the item. I ordered another item and it arrived without having any issues.

Furthermore, a majority of the orders I have placed and had questionable origin were sent from the Amazon warehouse. They were not directly sent from the seller.

Therefore, why is Amazon not implementing tighter quality control of the goods arriving in their distribution hub? Also, why there is no inspection of the products during the shipping process?

Perhaps Amazon expanded very rapidly and no longer can be in full control of the marketplace. The consumer should do their own due diligence and maybe it is  wiser to purchase the items elsewhere, where there are higher standards and smaller online operation.

Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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