Counterfeiters and Illicit Drug Smugglers Using Canada to Sell Fake Meds
Expert Tips to Spot the Fakes, Separate Fact from Fiction and Protect Yourself
KIRKLAND, QUÉBEC--(Marketwired - Dec. 17, 2013) - Surf the web and you'll find hundreds of "Canadian" online pharmacies that appear to sell VIAGRA® and other prescription medications. Separating fact from fiction can be difficult. So how do you know which sites are legitimate and who should you trust in the world of online medicines?
According to Pfizer, maker of VIAGRA®, counterfeit Pfizer medications have been confirmed in 106 countries worldwide. So far in 2013, authorities have seized 51 million doses of counterfeit Pfizer medications - that's up 34.5% over 2012. The most counterfeited Pfizer drug in the Americas (82%) and Europe (67%) is VIAGRA®.
Health Canada reports the greatest risk of exposure to counterfeit medications for Canadians is through the unregulated, online purchase of medications like VIAGRA® from unlicensed internet pharmacies, many of which claim to be located in Canada.
Don't Be Fooled: Counterfeiters Claiming to be from Canada is on the Rise
"Canada has a reputation for being a safe country with an excellent, safe pharmaceutical system and illicit counterfeiters use that to their advantage," says John Clark, Vice President and Chief Security Officer for Pfizer Inc. "In the past year alone, we've assisted law enforcement in the arrests of scammers who claimed to be located in Canada, but were really operating from Russia and Eastern Europe. This is a dangerous trend that's on the rise," he warns. According to Clark, be very wary of sites that use the words "Buy VIAGRA in Canada" and "VIAGRA no Prescription".
The Centre for Medicine in the Public Interest estimates worldwide counterfeit sales are increasing by 13 per cent annually and the counterfeit market is worth billions. Clark says that given the high stakes, counterfeiters are using more and more elaborate strategies to peddle counterfeit medication and the lengths they'll go to sell fake medications are sometimes stranger than any TV drama.
Fact: Blue Diamonds Sell
VIAGRA® is one of the most widely counterfeited drugs in the world - largely because some men are still too embarrassed to speak to their physician to obtain a prescription.
Pfizer reports that in the past six years, it has assisted law enforcement from around the world in seizing more than 45 million fake VIAGRA® tablets.
Overall, in the past decade, Pfizer estimates that its anti-counterfeiting efforts with global law enforcement agencies have prevented more than 85.8 million counterfeit doses from reaching the world market - and seized enough active pharmaceutical ingredient to manufacture 72 million tablets.
Fiction: Counterfeit Meds are Harmless Placebos
To try and replicate the look of the famous blue diamond VIAGRA® pill, counterfeiters often resort to a scary alchemy of toxic ingredients, which included printer ink and even street drugs.
Clark says that a growing and dangerous trend among more sophisticated counterfeiters is to use very low amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredient, which in the case of anti-malarial medications is very dangerous because it reduces effectiveness of the authentic medication, he explains. "We're seeing this a lot in Africa. It's a growing problem because people who take counterfeit meds first - and then are given authentic medication, are often resistant to the real medication and it is no longer effective," he says.
With counterfeit VIAGRA®, authorities have seized fake meds that contain less than one per cent of the usual dosage. Super potent fakes that contained 300 per cent of the maximum recommended dosage have also been seized.
Fiction: An Online Pharmacy is Safe if It has a Canadian License # and Hotline
Counterfeiters are copiers by their very nature - and they owe their success to painstakingly copying the look and experience of legitimate mail order pharmacies.
First, always check with your trusted healthcare professional who can recommend safe, licensed Canadian mail order pharmacies. Before you order, check the pharmacy license # by calling your provincial pharmacy association and confirming the license # that appears on the website is legitimate, counsels Clark, who says it is not uncommon for counterfeiters to also fake their license #. According to Clark, counterfeiters also commonly claim to be located in Canadian cities, including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, St. John's, Edmonton, Windsor and Calgary. They may even try to appear to seem local by describing landmarks and vivid details of the city.
Fact: Counterfeiters Are Friendly
A lot of consumers fall for the fact that some counterfeit pharmacies have toll-free numbers with very convincing operators who pose as helpful experts, explains Clark, who adds these fraudsters have elevated phishing to an art.
"A skilled internet fraudster can easily obtain confidential personal information in minutes and sometimes counterfeit VIAGRA® is the bait they use to get your personal data," he warns.
In fact, Clark says that Pfizer Global Security investigations of counterfeit pharmacies found that many purchases resulted in future unauthorized charges on the investigator's credit card. He also reveals that more and more, investigators are discovering master mind central hubs that direct and receive requests from hundreds of seemingly independent sites and portals from around the world.
Fiction: Illicit Meds are Only Sold on Street Corners
Believe it or not, a lot of counterfeiters use reputable courier and mail services - some will even send you a tracking #, says Clark, who says that while a small percentage of fraudsters never send medications at all, most send fake meds to keep you coming back for more.
"In collaboration with law enforcement from around the globe, we've also found other interesting ways that counterfeiters ship their wares," says Clark who reveals that authorities have uncovered stashes of counterfeit VIAGRA® in very strange hiding places including teddy bears and stereo speakers.
Fact: You Can Protect Yourself With a Few Smart Precautions
• Only buy VIAGRA® from a trusted Canadian pharmacy with a valid prescription from a Canadian physician:
All VIAGRA® packages sold in Canadian pharmacies feature a unique hologram
VIAGRA® packaging features high-tech radio frequency transmitters that track the drug's journey from the plant to the pharmacy, ensuring the drug that reaches you is authentic
Buying from a licensed pharmacy will allow you to speak to your pharmacist directly if you need legitimate answers to your questions
• VIAGRA® sold in Canada comes in a distinctive blue and white package featuring the image of a man on a mountain. This packaging is unique in the world and is one way to ensure your VIAGRA® is the real deal. Other attributes of real VIAGRA:
Only VIAGRA has Pfizer embossed on the blue diamond pills
VIAGRA pills are packaged in a tamper-resistant blister pack
VIAGRA pills are sold only in quantities of 4 and 8
VIAGRA is sold only as a blue diamond tablet - it does not come in a "soft gel", liquid or capsule format
Internet Pharmacies - An Inside Investigation
"The best advice is to be cautious and to ensure you are getting authentic VIAGRA®, always buy VIAGRA with a valid doctor's prescription from a licensed Canadian pharmacy," says Clark.
If you need the convenience of mail order delivery, Clark recommends doing some homework up-front for peace of mind and to ensure your safety. "Any site or person who offers VIAGRA® without a prescription is suspect. Don't gamble with your health by trusting sites that seem to be from Canada. Ask your doctor for recommendations or call your provincial pharmacy association for a list of licensed mail order pharmacies that operate to high quality standards and triple check again before you share any personal information," says Clark.
Working to Ensure Medications are Safe
Pfizer Canada works with wholesalers, pharmacies, regulators and law enforcement agencies around the world to constantly upgrade and improve the safety of people around the world who depend on life-saving medications.
Pfizer Canada Inc. is the Canadian operation of Pfizer Inc, the world's leading pharmaceutical company. Pfizer discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medicines for humans. At Pfizer, we're working for a healthier world. For more information, visit www.pfizer.ca.
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Posted: December 2013