ICN launches guidance to boost nurses’ fight against substandard and falsified medical products

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Geneva, Switzerland; 24 May 2019 – The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has issued a new position statement addressing the ongoing problem of substandard and falsified (SF) medical products and their consequences.

The publication coincides with a debate on the issue at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva. As ICN is in official relations with WHO, it is able to intervene in debates at the WHA to ensure the voice of nursing is heard.

ICN’s intervention highlighted that SF medical products can cause significant damage to people’s health and undermine patients’ faith in healthcare professionals and the systems they work in.

WHO defines substandard medical products as those that are authorised but fail to reach appropriate standards, and falsified products as those that deliberately or fraudulently misrepresent their identity, composition or source.

Such SF medical products have a substantial negative impact on public health, especially in low- and middle-income countries where the problem is particularly acute.

They can lead to serious adverse reactions or no therapeutic response, putting patients’ health and even their lives in danger.

Nurses have a responsibility to be vigilant about such medical products and can play an important role in educating the public on safety concerns of using them.

ICN Chief Executive Officer Howard Catton said:

‘Nurses are in a prime position to be able to support patients in identifying substandard and falsified medications, and they can contribute to reporting and surveillance systems to help the relevant agencies to investigate the origins of such products and stop their distribution.

‘These products are blighting patients’ lives around the world, and our guidance gives nurses the tools they need to make a real difference in people’s lives and end this cynical and dangerous trade.’

ICN urges governments to recognise the dangers posed by SF medical products on health, criminalise their production, and develop national plans, which include strong regulatory mechanisms and robust reporting systems.

ICN is encouraging national nurses’ associations to work with governments to combat SF medical products and collaborate with other professionals to ensure there is accurate information on the detection and elimination of such products.

ICN calls on individual nurses to increase their vigilance and awareness of such products, participate in developing plans for appropriate responses to them, and ensure patients know about the desired therapeutic effects and known side-effects of prescribed medications.

Nurses should also increase the awareness of patients and the public of the risks and dangers related to SF medical products, and the role they can play in detecting and reporting them.

ICN is a partner in Fight the Fakes, a global campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of fake medicines and to combat counterfeiting.


Note for Editors

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses’ associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO): it determines the WHO’s policies, appoints its Director General and approves and oversees its budget.

For further information please contact

Gyorgy Madarasz, Press Officer, International Council of Nurses, Tel: +41 22 908 01 16

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