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Consumer alert: counterfeit drugs

A consumer alert about counterfeit pharmaceuticals was sent out through the ABC Good Morning America News program last Sunday morning.

The report was called, “Bad Medicine,” counterfeit drugs flood market. Pierre Thomas an ABC News commentator interviewed experts who gave information to make consumers aware of bad drugs and ways to cut down their risks of obtaining them.

Online pharmacies are becoming more popular among consumers and criminals using these pharmacies to promote their drugs. Consumers patronizing these pharmacies usually do so to save money because drugs are expensive and the economy is weak. In many cases these pharmacies do not require a doctor’s written prescription and drugs are cheaper. However, authorities say that consumers are playing Russian roulette with their lives when they pop their pills.

Pat Ford, Pfizer’s senior director for Global Security, said that counterfeit drugs can be virtually indistinguishable until they are able to do chemical testing,

The World Health Organization estimates that one in three drugs on the worldwide market today is counterfeit and that sometimes the fake drugs contain toxic substances and chemicals that can kill. Ford stated in his interview that they have seen counterfeit pharmaceuticals that contain boric acid, heavy metals, road paint, and floor wax used to coat them to give them a shine.

The report included Tim Fagan who took a counterfeit drug after undergoing a liver transplant. The drug was purchased from a local pharmacy and his body was wracked in extreme pain. Every time he took a dose, his pain grew worse. Fake packaging disguised the fact that the pills contained 20 times less of the drug than Tim’s required dose.

Ford said criminals don’t care about the health of the consumer because this is a high reward business. Trademark tracing service, MarkMonitor estimated that sales have risen from $4 billion last year to $12 billion this year. However, Matthew Friedrich, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice department’s criminal division stated that there are some practical measures that consumers can take to protect themselves.

Use common sense. Don’t patronize a spam e-mail from someone whom you don’t know soliciting you to buy specific pharmaceuticals. In addition, If you want to go to the Internet and you find a pharmacy that is willing to sell you a prescription drug at a very low price, without a doctor having seen you and without a prescription, watch out.

In the meantime, “Tim Fagan’s Law” is pending in the House of Representatives, which is an effort to better protect consumers against counterfeit drugs.

For more information go on the Website to counterfeit drugs at abcnews.com.