On behalf of AccessRx, I recently contacted the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to request updated information about their anti-counterfeiting efforts, as well as additional updated information that can’t be found on their website (apparently the Feds have cut back on web updates in this area.)
A press officer from the FDA was kind enough to respond to our inquiry, and he forwarded about 2.5 pages of material, some of which will be used for a future (May) article in the Research Section of AccessRx. But this post will include some of the more interesting highlights…
Drug Gangs Sell Fake Viagra Instead of Cocaine
As you may know, Erectile Dysfunction drugs are some of the most widely counterfeited drugs in the world, a bona fide billion-dollar industry. In fact, some drug gangs and other criminals who used to sell illegal drugs such as cocaine have switched to selling counterfeit Viagra because it is more lucrative. The average American really has no idea as to how prevalent counterfeit drugs are online.
Big-Time Counterfeit Conviction in Dallas
As fate would have it this week, a major conviction occurred in Dallas. A 57-year-old man pleaded guilty to two federal offenses: conspiring to distribute counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and trafficking in pharmaceuticals bearing false labeling and counterfeit trademarks.
According to the Imperial Valley News, an undercover Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation proved that the man used the internet to obtain and distribute counterfeit versions of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, without parole, a $250,000 fine, and other great benefits.
You should check out the article. This guy sold about 2,500 pills to ICE agents and also threw a red flag in the laps of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. He sold Viagra for $1 per pill, Cialis for $1.20 and Levitra for $1.40. The wholesale cost for each of the pills is about 10 times that much.
More About The FDA
But, getting back to the FDA… The information they sent us says that their Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI) opens 32 to 54 cases per year that focus on counterfeit and other illegal drug operations. These investigations could revolve around an individual or “could involve multiple players and investigations.”
The FDA was not specific on how many resources it has dedicated to anti-counterfeiting, but it said it is focused on educating American consumers, as well as working “through diplomatic channels with China and India to ensure the inspection and closure of illegal laboratories abroad.”
Much of the counterfeit medication shipped into the U.S. comes from China and India. In fact, the 57-year-old Dallas man mentioned above bought his medications from China and discussed with his Chinese contacts how to avoid detection in the U.S. That worked out real well.
More Acronyms Than We Can Handle
The FDA said that it works with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to use a risk-based approach to assess the products, addresses and countries of packages that are coming into the U.S. One of the morals of the story, apparently, is that any loosely run operation could have a gaggle of acronyms after it, including the ICE, the CBP and the FDA’s OCI. Not all criminals are caught, but many are not LOL.
Suffice it to say, the FDA posts blatant warnings about the dangers of counterfeit drugs all over its website at FDA.gov. The following passage regarding online medications was included in the materials they sent to us:
“Although some patients may receive genuine product, others may unknowingly receive counterfeit copies that contain inert or harmful ingredients, drugs that are expired and have been diverted to illegitimate resellers, or dangerous sub-potent or super-potent products that were improperly manufactured. There is no way to tell the difference without doing a resource-intensive, time-consuming, laboratory analysis of each shipment that comes to the U.S.”
The reason AccessRx focuses on the dangers of counterfeit medications is to make consumers aware that counterfeit drugs are rampant on the internet, and that they can be dangerous. AccessRx is based in the U.S. and does not import its products. We provide only brand-name, FDA-approved medications that are prescribed and filled by only U.S.-licensed doctors and pharmacists. Packages arrive with expiration dates and lot numbers that can be verified through the product manufacturers.
Send Us Your Comments
We are building a follow-up article regarding counterfeit medications for a May release in the AccessRx Research Section. If you would like to have your comments included, please contact Brian Bujdos at firstname.lastname@example.org.