Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore

Last updated on December 9, 2020

hand holding magnifying glass over medication tablets

Counterfeit medicine and health products are medication or health products that have been presented in a manner to falsely resemble registered health products, or that have had their source intentionally mislabelled for sale. Such medication or products may be manufactured with wrong or harmful ingredients.

Alternatively, even if the medication or product has been manufactured with the right active ingredient, this ingredient can be at the wrong dose and hence be harmful to health. Such counterfeit medication and health products are then packaged and labelled to look like genuine products.

Expired medicines and health products are not counterfeit. However, if expired medicines and health products are intentionally mislabelled and sold as normal medicines and health products, they may be considered counterfeit.

For example, a generic drug for Alzheimer’s Disease can have a 2-year expiry from the date of manufacture. However, if the medicine is then repackaged and labelled as having an expiry of another 2 years, the medicine is counterfeit.

In this article, we will be covering:

Dangers Of Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products

The use of counterfeit medicines and health products can be harmful to health and even cause death.

Consumers who use counterfeit medicines and health products can experience unexpected side effects, allergic reactions, or a worsening of existing medical conditions. They may also develop a new medical problem.

An example would be the weight loss medication, Slim 10, which led to adverse health effects among a few people who used it.

The Slim 10 pills contained ingredients not listed on packaging such as fenfluramine, which is linked to heart-valve problems, and nicotinamide, which can cause liver damage. The pills also contained banned substances, thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Some people also died after consuming the product.

Identifying a Counterfeit Medicine/Health Product

With advancements in technology, identifying a counterfeit medicine or health product from the real medicine or health product is often difficult, if not impossible for consumers. Some of these products may have similar names and packaging to those sold in clinics or pharmacies, making it difficult for consumers to differentiate the real medicine or health product from the fake.

In Singapore, these medicines or health products are often peddled via makeshift street stalls, unsolicited spam mail, or over the Internet via unknown websites or sellers.

If your medicine or product was obtained from such dubious sources, there is a high chance that the medicine or health product that you have bought may be counterfeit.

The best way to avoid buying such medicines and health products is to buy your health products from registered clinics and pharmacies.

If you are unsure as to whether a medication or health product you have purchased is genuine, you can make a report to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). The HSA may perform a laboratory analysis to investigate the authenticity and source of the product.

Offences And Penalties Relating to Counterfeit Medicine and Health Products

Buying counterfeit medicine and health products for personal use is not illegal.

However, if you buy counterfeit medicine and health products overseas and attempt to bring them into Singapore, you might be committing an offence. In such cases, there is a possibility of the counterfeit goods being confiscated by the authorities at the point of importation.

Trademark violation of licensed medication or health product

Selling, trading or manufacturing medicine or health products that have had trade marks applied on them without the trademark owner’s consent is illegal, regardless of whether the goods are bought in Singapore or bought overseas and imported into Singapore.

Generally, a licensed medication or health product would have a registered trademark.

It is therefore an offence to counterfeit the trademark by creating a copy of it or altering the trademark on legitimate medicines/health products and without the permission of the trademark owner.

According to section 49 of the Trade Marks Act (TMA), such an offence is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 for each counterfeit product sold or imported, subject to the same overall maximum fine of $100,000 and/or a jail term of up to 5 years.

However, the individual may not be liable for this offence if he had:

  • Acted innocently; or
  • Taken all reasonable precautions to avoid committing the offence, had no reason to believe that the trademarks applied on the medicine or health products were not genuine, and had disclosed from whom he had obtained such medicine or health product upon request.

Offence and penalties for the sale of counterfeit health products     

Those who sell or buy counterfeit medicine and healthcare products for the purpose of reselling them can also be found guilty of an offence under the Health Products Act.

According to section 16 of the Health Products Act, the supply of adulterated or counterfeit health products is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years. The same penalties apply for people found guilty of manufacturing defective medicines and health products. This means that retailers, distributors or manufacturers of defective products can all be held liable if found to have carried out such illegal activities.

However, if an individual did not know, had no reason to believe and could not reasonably have known that the medicine or health product he/she was selling was counterfeit, and had also taken all precautions and due diligence to avoid selling counterfeit health products, he/she may not be liable for the offence.

How Buyers and Victims of Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products Can Seek Redress in Singapore

1. Contact the HSA Enforcement Branch

If you know of any counterfeit medicines and health products being sold in Singapore, you should contact the HSA Enforcement Branch at 6866 3485 or via email.

The HSA may investigate the matter, seize the counterfeit medicines and health products, revoke import and wholesale licenses and press criminal charges against the persons involved, as necessary.

2. Make a police report 

If you are a victim of counterfeit medicine or health products (i.e. have suffered harm as a result of using counterfeit medicine or health products), you should make a police report.

The police may request for your personal details and information about the medicine or product. This information may include the product name, country of purchase, manufacturer and supplier, and what you experienced as a result of using the counterfeit medicine or health product.

3. Commence a civil lawsuit

You may also wish to commence a civil lawsuit against the manufacturer or supplier of the counterfeit medicine or health product to seek compensation.

For this course of action, it would be recommended to seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer who will advise you on the strength of your case and the required documents and evidence you may need to prepare, such as the counterfeit medicine and health product bought, the purchase receipt, medical reports and hospitalisation bills.

Making a civil claim as a victim

Under the tort of negligence, a private person who is a victim of a defective product may file a lawsuit against the manufacturer or even the distributor or supplier, for negligence in the manufacture or supply of such products.

In the Slim 10 example mentioned above, Singapore actress Andrea de Cruz, suffered from liver failure after consuming the unsafe slimming pills. She then sued various parties such as the importer and distributor of Slim 10 in Singapore for negligence, and was awarded $1.63 million in compensation.

Making a claim as a buyer

If you are an individual who has paid to receive a genuine medicine or health product but have instead received a counterfeit one, this may constitute a false claim or misrepresentation by the seller that the product was genuine.

In this situation, you may be able to lodge a complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore to try and obtain a refund.

Counterfeit medicine and health products can be dangerous to health and you should purchase medication and health products only from registered clinics and pharmacies.

If you wish to claim compensation against the manufacturer or distributor for losses or harm suffered as a result of buying or using counterfeit medicine or health products, you may engage the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer to assess your case and file a lawsuit in court on your behalf.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
  2. What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
  3. Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
  4. Police Investigation Process in Singapore
  5. Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
  6. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  7. Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  8. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  9. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  10. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  11. "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
  12. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  13. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  14. Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
  15. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  16. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  17. Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
Bail
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
Prosecution
  1. What is Private Prosecution?
  2. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  4. Compounding or Composition of Offences in Singapore
  5. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
During Criminal Proceedings
  1. What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
  2. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  3. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  4. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  5. The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
  6. Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
  7. Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
After Criminal Proceedings
  1. Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
  2. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  3. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  4. Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
  5. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  6. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  7. Criminal Records in Singapore
  8. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  9. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
Types of Sentences After Committing an Offence
  1. How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  2. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  3. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  4. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
  5. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  6. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  7. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  8. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
  9. Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
Being a Victim
  1. Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
  2. Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
  3. Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  4. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Offences Against the Human Body
  1. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  2. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore (and Penalties)
  3. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  4. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
Sexual Offences
  1. Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
  2. Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
  3. Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
  4. How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
  5. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  6. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  7. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  8. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  9. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  10. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  11. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  12. Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
  13. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
  2. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  3. Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
  4. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  5. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
  6. Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
  7. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  8. Gambling Legally (In Public or Online) in Singapore
  9. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
Property Offences
  1. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  2. Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  4. Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
  5. Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
  6. Penalties for Littering and Killer Litter Offences in Singapore
Cybercrime
  1. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  2. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  3. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  4. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
  2. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  3. Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
  4. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
  5. Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
Road Offences
  1. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  2. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  3. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  4. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
  6. Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
  7. Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  8. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
Animal-Related Offences
  1. Is It Illegal to Feed Stray Animals in Singapore?
  2. Singapore Animal Abuse Offences, Penalties & How to Report
Offences Relating to Public Peace and Good Order
  1. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
  2. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  3. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  4. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
  5. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
Gang and Riot-related Offences
  1. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  2. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  3. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
Marriage-Related Offences
  1. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
  2. Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
  3. Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
  4. Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
  5. What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
  6. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  7. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore