Thursday, 7 January 2021

Fake Goods Are Putting Lives at Risk?

The filter material of a true three-ply mask is made from plastics, such as polythene and polypropylene. Hence when lit up, instead of producing sparks, they melt. But if it is made from paper or a mixture of plastic and paper, then there would be “some kind of fire”.

According to CNA, in March 2020, The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) led enforcement agencies from 90 countries to scour the Internet for fake medical items. In one week, they uncovered around 600 cases of counterfeit surgical masks sold online. It led to the seizure of 34,000 fake or sub-standard masks.

One of the countries that is engaged actively in this operation is Malaysia. The problem of counterfeit is now endemic. Fake masks are not only counterfeits in circulation but has a health impact on Malaysians. Today, counterfeiters are targeting a range of goods, from high-street beauty products — which can spark skin allergies — to car spare parts, with implications on road safety.

Among the most dangerous of these products are falsified medicines, of which an increasing amount is being produced and sold in Southeast Asia. This was reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime last year. Every year, consumers in the region spend an estimated US$520 million to US$2.6 billion on falsified medicines. And it ranges from anti-cancer treatments to drugs for infertility and weight loss.

According to Malaysian pharmacist Zeff Tan, there are two types of counterfeit medicines. The first type has no active pharmaceutical compound or contains the ingredients only partially. “If you're taking counterfeit blood pressure medicine, your blood pressure wouldn’t be well-regulated,” he said by way of example. “One tablet has the compound; another tablet is a placebo. So, on one day, your pressure is controlled; while on another day, it isn't controlled. You're risking your life.”

Alcohol without proper processing also has serious adverse effects on health. Properly produced and certified alcoholic drinks are made with ethanol. Drinkaware’s Chief Medical Advisor Professor Paul Wallace explains: “Commonly used substitutes for ethanol include chemicals used in cleaning fluids, nail polish removers and automobile screen wash, as well as methanol and isopropanol.” Drinking alcohol containing these chemicals can cause nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, drowsiness and dizziness. Drinking it can also lead to kidney or liver problems and even induce a coma. Methanol, the substance which has been found in fake vodka, causes permanent blindness.

Many Malaysians are price oriented. Hence the market for fake products. We as consumers should be aware that fake products are dangerous to health. Buying cheap, especially a drug, is worrisome. And counterfeit alcohol with a discount of up to 80 per cent is not worth your life. But some people don’t really bother whether it is real or fake and end up dead. That’s not because we don’t have laws but just that enforcement is lax, or corruption is rife.



1.     From face masks to alcohol, fake goods in Malaysia are putting lives in danger, 27 May 2020, CNA Insider

2.     The dangers of fake alcohol


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