Expats need to be on guard for fake or illegal drugs

Expats frequently face the problem of counterfeit products, be it razor blades or even kitchen appliances.

But even more dangerous to the health are counterfeit drugs that may not even contain any of the chemicals needed for an ailment.

Expats may be confused by the many confiscations of drugs coming from Nicaragua. Each year on buses and on trucks customs officials and police find thousands of cosmetics and pills. Could the appetite for products from home be so strong among the Nicaraguans here?

In most cases the best bet is that Nicaraguans will never see the products that are smuggled successfully. An international sweep there in 2013 found 200 Web sites dedicated to distributing suspect drugs.

The sweep was sponsored by the International Police Agency and involved Nicaraguan officials.

So there is a high probability that cheap drugs being smuggled from Nicaragua enter normal commerce. An estimate by the Colegio de Farmacéuticos was that from 20 to 40 percent of the drugs here are either fake or at least lack approval from the Ministerio de Salud.

The same 2013 sweep found 8,828 pharmaceutical products coming illegally into Costa Rica, a Colegio de Farmacéuticos report said. Not all were shipped by land from Nicaragua.

The report said some drugs came in express mail envelopes labeled documents and some even came inside diplomatic packages.

The Colegio de Farmacéuticos is the professional association of pharmacists.

The colegio said Monday that the Ministerio de Salud has embarked on a survey of retail outlets to check the drug products on sale. The surveyors are taking samples to be submitted for chemical analysis.

The colegio urged its members to cooperate.

The professional organization has said it would like to see tougher laws regarding unregistered and fake drugs.

Expats may also find that drugs obtained from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social may not be exactly what the doctor ordered.

The Caja has had problems with drug purchases from Third World suppliers and drugs simply going out of date because they were stored too long.

And drugs may not be the only concern facing expats.  A dozen or more persons claiming to be physicians obtained their alleged medical degree from a U.S. outlet that is nothing more than a Web site.

The Colegio de Médicos y Cirujanos de Costa Rica keeps an up-to-date list of members.

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