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According to NBC10 in Philadelphia, people looking to save money on their medications need to know that purchasing their prescriptions from off-market sources such as online pharmacies or someone on the street can be hazardous. You may receive pills that look real but are actually fakes. Assistant Special Agent in Charge William Walker of the Department of Homeland Security Investigations unit said that when someone takes a counterfeit medicine that they, “…have no idea what they’re putting in their body.”

Approximately 1,000 samples are sent for testing at Pfizer’s Connecticut laboratory each year by customers, law enforcement agencies, and internal investigations. Pfizer’s director of investigations Brian Donnelly said the majority of the samples tested turn out to be counterfeit. He warned that people purchasing their medications from off-market sources risk falling victim to bad actors looking to turn fake pills into cash. Donnelly says the saddest cases are cancer patients. “They’re going to take a chance that this is going to be their cure,” Donnelly said. “And now, they get this product and there’s nothing in it.”

If you are concerned about how much your medications are or will cost you, the easiest and safest way to save money is to always purchase the generic version of any prescribed medications. If there is no generic available, speak with your doctor to see if there is another drug similar available that does have a generic available. If there is no generic option, consider applying to a prescription assistance program. Needymeds.org has a comprehensive listing of programs. It is possible to save some money by purchasing your medications online, but make sure to only purchase from one whose website address ends in .pharmacy. This means that the pharmacy has been approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.