COUNTERFEIT VIAGRA

Last September Polish police raided a factory in Bydgoszcz and found 100,000 fake Viagra pills and 43,000 vials of steroids. Counterfeit drugs have found a new dealer and it was in shady internet “pharmacies” selling erectile dysfunction drugs to desperate buyers around the globe. No prescription needed, no medical questions to answer, no physician review.

The sale and purchase of medications is illegal and supports some of the worst criminals who enrich themselves by preying on people’s needs. Equally bad, patients often receive inferior and contaminated medications made in unsanitary conditions.

A 2012 study (J Sex Med 2012;9(11):2943-51) reported the results when medications purchased from 22 different internet “pharmacies” were analyzed. 77% were counterfeit and contained toxins and contaminants like drywall (think plaster), printer ink, speed in the form of amphetamine, and metronidazole (used to treat yeast infections). They did contain some Viagra: only 30% to 50% of the stated quantity. Essentially, counterfeits contain a little of what you need and a lot of what is dangerous.

Another very savvy move by these internet criminals is that they prey on the preconceptions Americans have that Canadian pharmacies sell the same product as American pharmacies, only at a lower price.

In the study, not one of the four Canadian pharmacies shipped their medication from Canada.

What should patients do? More than 50% of the men who need treatment for Erectile Dysfunction (ED) are untreated and even when they are, many patients fail to renew their medication. Some men go untreated because they are uncomfortable talking to a doctor in person about ED. Other men cannot fill (or refill) prescriptions due to cost. It is understandable that turning to the internet is an appealing alternative to suffering silently.

The good news is that there are now safe and inexpensive alternatives as generics are becoming available at the end of this year. Moreover, the internet provides access to US licensed physicians who can evaluate a patient with a careful intake evaluation for as little as $15.

The keys are to make sure you have a true visit with a US licensed physician and receive a prescription that is filled in a US pharmacy. Many patients are stunned to learn that it is now possible for physicians to use medications to treat ED that can cost as little as a few dollars.