7 Most Common Counterfeit Drugs

Melanie Haiken, writing for the MSN Wellness Blog, highlights the seven most likely drug counterfeits that US consumers could end up purchasing.

Counterfeit drugs are a scary threat to US consumers, writes Melanie Haiken in her article, 7 Scariest Counterfeit Drugs. You might think you are taking a pain reliever or lifestyle drug for weight loss or erectile dysfunction (ED) but instead you end up with any number of hidden poisons such as road paint, antifreeze, or an undeclared and unapproved medication like Sibutramine.

Cardiovascular Medications

If you suffer heart disease, you should be treated by a doctor, not a website that offers online diagnosis of your ailments. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women, “So it's no wonder that cardiologists and other doctors have viewed with alarm reports that fake -- and ineffective -- versions of these often-expensive drugs are circulating in the U.S.” opines Ms. Haiken. Yet Americans are more likely than their counterparts in Europe to purchase drugs for serious illnesses online. The real danger is that not only will patients not get the drugs they need, they will get a dangerous counterfeit instead.


Since antibiotics are drugs you take when you are sick with an infection, getting a counterfeit version of an antibiotic could make you sicker, simply because it does not cure your infection. Unfortunately, worsening illness is only one risk of taking antibiotics purchased without a prescription. They may be tainted with heavy metals, or some other dangerous ingredient.

Cancer Drugs

In recent years, fake cancer drugs had been found in Israel and China, and then again in February 2012 In the United States. The FDA warned doctors’ offices & clinics in 15 states that they might have purchased counterfeit vials of Avastin containing no real drug, but simply acetone & water after a lead from the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

ED Medications

The Pharmaceutical Security Institute reports that 37% of all fake medicines seized are ED drugs.  ED drugs are offered for sale via thousands of fake online pharmacies without prescription requirements.  Ms. Haiken reports, “One problem is that men are avoiding their doctors and buying these medications without a prescription -- unaware that it can be risky for people with heart disease and other conditions.” The real danger of buying these drugs from a non-VIPPS approved pharmacy is that there is a very good chance they will not just be counterfeit, but poison.

Treatments for Chronic Ailments Like HIV, Diabetes & Alzheimers

Chronic ailments pose a great marketing opportunity for drug counterfeiters, because chronic ailments by their very nature respond at a more measured pace to treatment. As a result, drugs for conditions like AIDS and diabetes are being counterfeited more frequently, subjecting those who suffer from them to increased dangers from lack of treatment and exposure to toxic compounds.

Painkillers and Weight Loss Medications

Painkillers & weight-loss drugs have already been exploited by counterfeiters selling fake versions in the US. Get to know what your medications look like and be on the lookout for any packaging or labeling anomalies. Also, only buy prescription medications from VIPPS approved pharmacies or legitimate brick-and mortar pharmacies, and only buy over-the-counter drugs from trusted sellers.

Psychiatric Medications

The recent FDA warning about counterfeit Adderall sold online is an example of how drug counterfeiters are also targeting psychiatric medications. A Google search for Xanax, Ativan, Adderrall, or Ambien will turn up hundreds of websites offering these powerful drugs without a prescription. One way to know if the website is a fake? if they offer to sell you prescription medication without a prescription, then the drugs they are selling are suspect.

Learn more about the world of counterfeit drug manufacture and what law enforcement, lawmakers, patient groups, and industry are doing to protect the American consumer at the 2012 Interchange, September 28th in Washington DC. Register today!