Counterfeit medications are a major worldwide problem. In 2013, over 122,000 people died in sub-Saharan Africa from the use of poor-quality antimalarials. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of all the medicines sold in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America are counterfeit. Worldwide, an estimated 10% of all medicines are counterfeit. Fake drugs have been found which were supposed to treat heart disease, cancer, arthritis, anesthesia, vaccines, infections, and mental illness.
Patients can experience a variety of problems from the use of counterfeit drugs. If the counterfeit drug that contains no active ingredient and no impurities, then the fake medicine provides no benefit, but does no additional harm. If the counterfeit drug contains some active ingredient mixed with toxic contaminants, then the medicine may provide some benefit, but the accompanying poisons may also do great harm. If the counterfeit drug contains the correct active ingredient but in the wrong amount (too much or too little), then the medicine may be too diluted to provide any real benefits or may be an overdose that does a great deal of harm. With counterfeit vaccines and antibiotics, the ineffective medicine affects both the patient and the outbreak of the illness for an entire community.
How heartbreaking for victims of fake medicines! They have received a proper diagnosis of their illness. The appropriate remedy has been identified to treat their disease. They purchase and administer the medicine as directed. But because of dishonesty or incompetence, their health does not improve, and may actually worsen. And by the time they realize the medicine they were taking was a counterfeit, it may be too late.
Jesus tells of the agony many will experience on judgment day because they did not realize that their faith was counterfeit. These people will stand before Him, call Him “Lord”, recount their good works, and confidently expect to join Him in heaven. He will say to them, “Depart to Hell. I never knew you.” (Matthew 7) We are constantly warned in Scripture about false teachers and others who try to lead us astray. Knowing our condition (sinners) and understanding the necessary cure (faith with repentance and obedience), we must be extra careful to only trust those who proclaim the genuine Gospel with honesty, integrity, and competence, and to be alert of those who can cause of great spiritual harm due to their dishonesty or incompetence in handling God’s revealed truth.