LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Drugs for treating male erectile dysfunction have become one of the hottest and most lucrative sections of the international drug market, but health experts caution to beware of online purchases.
Since 2005 the market has nearly doubled and that has opened up the door to fakes and supplements labeled "natural" that could do more harm than good.
Nearly 80 products with names like "Man Up," "Weekend Prince" and "Max Man" are being shipped in from India and China that have been laced with the active ingredient found in prescription Viagra.
"They're being promoted as being much cheaper and, unfortunately, they're often promoted as being safe and we know that's typically not the case," said urologist Dr. Lawrence Hakim.
In fact late last year, the Food and Drug Administration put out an official warning telling consumers to avoid "Man Up" because it contains potentially dangerous ingredients.
"We're seeing counterfeit Levitra, counterfeit Viagra, and counterfeit Cialis."
Then there are the prescription drug fakes that are sold online. At a glance they look like the real thing, until you take a closer look.
"I mean you've got dirt inside of the packages. You can see it, there is like dirt inside there."
"The counterfeit drug can look like the original drug," said Cariny Nunez with the FDA. "We send them to the lab to make sure what type of ingredients, whether or not it's a fake or a brand origination."
Experts warn that in at least half of all Internet drug sales, the drugs are fake, not the right strength or a different drug altogether.
"They can be very dangerous as well in that some of these agents like amphetamies or herbal agents that they often use in these counterfeit drugs can cause other life-threatening issues."
Possible health risks include heart attacks, strokes, dangerous drug interactions or even death.
The problem is so bad that Postal inspectors and ice agents regularly conduct what they call drug seizure blitzes.
Each time they say hundreds of thousands of pills shipped from overseas are confiscated -- just a small fraction of what makes it through to those eager to buy them.
The FDA says that you should only buy from a registered pharmacy with a legitimate prescription from your doctor. And, like anything else, if the price or deal seems to be good to be true, it likely is!
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