This is a one of the most lucrative and lethal counterfeit industries that thrives on the lack of consumer discretion and general absence of stringent oversight worldwide. Social media also plays its role in amplifying the menace and making it abundantly available to unsuspecting patients.

Selling fake drugs ranging from ordinary painkillers and antihistamines, to lifestyle medicines to lifesavers for the treatment of cancer, diabetes and heart diseases, is akin to wilful murder, and therefore must be condemned in the strongest measure.

According to UN estimates, criminal syndicates earn higher profit margins by selling such counterfeits rather than the sale of illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

Thankfully, in the UAE, the Ministry of Health and Prevention has set up robust mechanisms, in cooperation with other authorities, to deal with this menace. Its range of preventive actions — such as strict monitoring of websites that are known to promote counterfeit drugs — have made the UAE a key international player in the field of anti-drug fraud.

The public warning from the ministry citing the UN statistics is a step in the same direction and aims to empower UAE residents in detecting and tackling the scourge.

Such measures are a major point of reassurance for the UAE public, since one of the most vulnerable areas of concern in many other countries is the freely available access to such sites under the belief that they are completely safe and trustworthy.

However, consumers must also be ever vigilant against such fraud and buy such products online with a certain degree of discretion and responsibility — it is only with their full cooperation that any battle against fake drugs sold online can be truly successful.