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Evital: The 'fake' contraceptive?

A phony morning-after pill, not approved by the FDA and circulating via online pharmacies and dealers, may be useless — or even dangerous

The FDA is warning consumers to avoid a "fake" contraceptive known as Evital which it discovered earlier this week. The drug, sold as a "morning-after" emergency contraceptive on online pharmacy sites and by individual dealers, is believed to be ineffective at preventing pregnancy and may contain potentially harmful compounds. The FDA is urging women not to take the pills, and to contact the FDA via email if they have any of the counterfeit pills. Here's what you need to know:

How can anyone spot a phony contraceptive?
By the name, in this case. There are only three brands of morning-after contraceptives approved for use in the United States: Next Choice, Ella, and Plan B One-Step. These are available over-the-counter in many pharmacies, and with a prescription for women under the age of 16. The boxes of Evital, which is not approved for use in the United States, were discovered through routine inspections of imported goods.

How do people get access to counterfeit drugs?
Online pharmacies have made it easy to sell fake medicine. Also, some drugs like contraceptives are sold within certain communities person-to-person. Though the FDA says it doesn't have hard evidence that any particular ethnic group is being targeted by those selling Evital, it seems these bogus emergency contraceptives have been distributed within Hispanic communities in boxes labeled "Anticonceptivo de emergencia."

How common are issues with counterfeit pills?
Counterfeit drugs of all types are circulating worldwide, especially via the internet. Some contain no active ingredient, while others may be contaminated and potentially dangerous. In 2004, the FDA took action against phony contraceptive patches available from an overseas internet pharmacy — the patches contained no ingredients that would prevent pregnancy.

Sources: CNN, FDA, Huffington Post, TIME

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