Inside the dangers of online pharmacies

(CBS News) Another fake batch of the cancer drug "Avastin" turned up in the U.S. this week. It's the third such case in the past year. Counterfeit drugs often come into our homes through online pharmacies. In fact, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, Food and Drug Administration, one in four online shoppers have purchased drugs online and only about 3 percent of Internet pharmacies follow state laws.

Some online pharmacies are safe, but the majority are not. There are around 10,000 Internet addresses that sell drugs and only 150 to 200 licensed pharmacies that know what they're doing.

Roger Bate, an economist from the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of "Phake: The Deadly World of Falsified and Substandard Medicines," said "the vast majority, some of them are run by the Russian mafia, can sell very lethal products, things people would never dream of ingesting under other circumstances."

In order to know where to buy from, you need to understand the agencies that monitor sites selling pharmaceuticals, as most are not credentialed by anyone.

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"There are private credentials that are more useful like, and that's useful for people to do comparisons of drugs," he said. "Of the 60 or so sites they recommend, we sampled 36 and found no problems with what they are selling."

Drugs can be cheaper if you safely buy them online as some sites bring pharmaceuticals in from other countries. According to Bate, in Canada, drugs are half the price of the drugs in the United States, so you can save money, if you go to a credentialed site. If you're not careful, you run the risk of getting counterfeit and lethal pharmaceutical medications.

However, in some cases the drugs are even more expensive online. "People are embarrassed, particularly men with viagra and women for diet pills," said Bate. "So they can get away with charging high prices."

Unverified Pharmacies Easy to Search Online

Unfortunately, these online sites are hard to regulate because the FDA cannot oversee pharma web companies in other countries. Interestingly, according to Bate, in 1980 most of the ingredients used to make drugs were made in America, but today 80 percent of drugs are made overseas, largely India and China."

For Roger Bates's full interview, watch the video above.