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Online fake pill sales dangerously rampant

February 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A dirty, disgusting warehouse with fungus growing on the walls was where investigators busted counterfeiters making fake Viagra in China.

It's just one of a series of raids all over the world that have uncovered counterfeit pill making operations.

In Ecuador, boric acid, used to kill cockroaches, was one of the ingredients going in pills.

In Montreal, counterfeiters used lead-based wall paint to give pills the well-known blue color used in real Viagra.

In Columbia, drugs were made using sheet rock and rat poison. In Hungary, investigators found pills that 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.

Even if pills don't have dangerous ingredients, fakes won't help anyone.

Recently, the Federal Drug Administration shut down a number of websites that purported to sell drugs for heart disease, epilepsy and anxiety. They listed for sale more than 40 prescription drugs, including Depakote, Zoloft, Lipitor and Xanax -- all turned out to be fakes.

"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," said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Therese Randazzo.

Sometimes knock-offs look so convincing, even drug companies have trouble telling the difference.

"We can't tell quite often until we get it into our lab and we test is chemically," said Pfizer's Patrick Ford.

In fact, when Pfizer investigators actually ordered their popular little blue pill from 26 online pharmacies, a whopping 81 percent turned out to be fake.

Experts add never use a site that doesn't require a prescription. If you think you may have purchased counterfeit medication contact the company that makes the drug you intended to order. They may test the pills for you.

If you're buying online, make sure the website is approved by the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. The approval indicates the site you ordered from is a legitimate site with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.