Information update

Counterfeit Drugs May Pose Serious Dangers to Your Health

Starting date:
June 22, 2012
Posting date:
June 22, 2012
Type of communication:
Information Update
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Unauthorized products, Undeclared Substance, Product Safety
General Public
Identification number:

Counterfeit health products might not just be a consumer ripoff, they can also be dangerous to your health.

While counterfeit health products may look like the ones you use every day, they have not been reviewed by Health Canada for safety, quality or effectiveness.  They may also contain hidden ingredients not listed on the label, dangerous additives and/or contaminated ingredients. In addition, they may lack the active ingredients Canadians would expect them to contain to help them maintain and improve their health. For all of these reasons, they could cause serious health effects.

Consumers should read the label of the products they buy to verify that the products have been assessed by Health Canada. Health products that have been authorized for sale by Health Canada will have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) or a Natural Product Number (NPN) on the label. Some natural health products may have an Exemption Number (EN), which indicates that the product is legally available for sale while Health Canada is reviewing its application for licensing.

Canadians should be especially careful when purchasing health products online, particularly from sites that offer to provide prescription drugs without requiring you to be seen in-person by a health care professional. This should raise questions about the quality of the product you are buying and whether it is potentially harmful.

When Health Canada identifies or is advised of counterfeit products, we work with the Canada Border Services Agency to stop the importation of any potential shipments from entering Canada. When counterfeit products are found on the Canadian market, Health Canada takes appropriate action to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

Health Canada has previously informed Canadians about counterfeit prescription products Cialis and Viagra, H1N1 products, and toothbrushes that had been found on the Canadian market. Health Canada also informed Canadians when the RCMP dismantled a counterfeit drug network.

Health Canada encourages Canadians to monitor its list of affected products, which is updated every time a new counterfeit product is identified on the Canadian market.

For more information about the risks of buying drugs online, please visit Health Canada's website. You may also visit an It's Your Health article: Buying Drugs over the Internet.

How to report side effects to health products to Health Canada:

  • Call toll-free at 1-866-234-2345
  • Visit MedEffect Canada's web page on Adverse Reaction Reporting for information on how to report online, by mail or by fax

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