MIAMI (CBS4) - New numbers show the demand for sexual therapy drugs has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. As a result: so have the number of counterfeit pills, created in make shift labs like this one in China making fake Viagra.
The place is a dirty, disgusting warehouse with fungus growing on the wall. It's where investigators busted the counterfeiters.
It's just one of a series of raids all over the world that uncovered phony pill making operation.
In Ecuador, boric acid was one of the pill ingredients.
In Montreal, commercial grade wall paint was used to give pills color.
In Columbia, pills were made using sheet rock and rat poison.
And in Hungary, they contained speed.
"If you're taking a pill that has rat poison, lead, boric acid, you could become potentially very ill from that, and possibly even have a fatal complication," said Urologist Dr. Jed Kaminetsky.
The real pills help treat erectile dysfunction or E-D. The fakes won't help anyone.
U.S. Customs is seizing counterfeits through the mail and package carriers, even finding some hidden in door bells.
The Feds are stepping up enforcement as it becomes more common. In 2010, agents nabbed about 330 shipments of fake E-D drugs. So far this year, the number stands at 1,200, according to Therese Randazzo with the US Customs and Border Protection Service.
"A lot of these drugs are ordered over the Internet from what appear to be legitimate pharmacies and are shipped directly to the patients by the counterfeiters."
Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra lined up some real pills next to fraudulent ones. But even the experts have a hard time telling the difference.
"We can't tell quite often until we get it into our lab and we test is chemically," said Patrick Ford with Pfizer Global Security.
When investigators from Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, actually ordered their popular "little blue pill" from 26 online pharmacies, 81% percent of the pills turned out to be counterfeit!
"The counterfeiter is, nobody looking to see how he's making his product." explained
And that's why counterfeit pills are so dangerous.
Now drug companies are fighting back, on the front lines of drug raids, aggressively pursuing counterfeiters and taking legal action.
Experts say not all online pharmacies deserve a bad rap. Just make sure you buy from a website that has the blue oval "VIPPS" seal of approval on it and confirm that it's on the National Association Boards of Pharmacy list of approved pharmacies.
"They (the customers) just have to be careful. They have to do some research and they have to make sure that when they're ordering medications that it's a legitimate and legal pharmacy," said Carmen Catizone, the Executive Director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
If you think you may have purchased counterfeit medication, contact the company that makes the drug you intended to order. It may test the pills for you.
You should also contact your doctor and report it to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Links on how to ur website with information on how to do that, and to see if an online pharmacy is accredited... are below.
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