Objectives. The increasing illegal and on-line market of medicines and food supplements is helping the widespread diffusion of harmful counterfeit and forbidden products among consumers of developed countries. The objectives of this survey were the description of the main frauds recognized by public officers and the detection of illegal or counterfeit drugs and food supplements.
Methods. Medicines and food supplements found by Police forces on the illegal market or resulting from seizures made by Italian Customs authorities were visually inspected and analysed to evaluate their quality and the presence of other undeclared substances.
Results. The visual inspection and the chemical analysis revealed unsuitable packaging (mostly lacking of adequate information for consumers), absence of the declared active substances and presence of undeclared active substances. Products containing doping agents, illegal substances and active ingredients requiring medical supervision were found.
Conclusion. The present work confirmed the health risk associated with assumption of medicines purchased on the Internet and from the illegal supply chain and evidenced a new threat to consumer safety related to the presence of pharmaceutical active ingredients in food supplements claiming to contain only “natural ingredients”.