Posted by Deborah Pujoue on October 13, 2011
I am very skeptical when a drug company offers a warning against drugs, but that is exactly what Pfizer Inc. has just done. The company is teaming up with a pharmacy standards group in an effort to warn people against buying and/or using counterfeit drugs. But before you start getting all warm and fuzzy over this, you should know that Pfizer’s motives aren’t altogether pure.
To be sure, counterfeit prescription drugs are dangerous; there is no known way to properly identify all of the ingredients inside the drugs. But drug companies are just as worried that they will lose money with every fake drug you buy. Pfizer, the drug company with the largest annual revenue, has said that “counterfeit versions of its medicines have been sold in at least 101 countries.” One of the company’s drugs that is being counterfeited is the antidepressant Zoloft.
The very thought of a fake version of Zoloft or any other SSRI antidepressant being sold is just scary, especially since antidepressants are the most common prescription handed out today. When you include the dangers of the real versions of these drugs — birth defects including PPHN, cleft palate and heart, lung and brain problems — the false versions are absolutely terrifying.
Some patients who are likely to buy their drugs online are particularly susceptible to getting the fake drugs. If you are wondering just how much money is made through counterfeit pharmaceuticals, it is estimated that $75 billion worth of fake drugs were sold last year alone, which means that sales of fake drugs are up 90 percent since 2005, according to the World Health Organization. Consumers who purchase medication online are being advised by the FDA to really check their virtual pharmacies for a seal that can prove that the pharmacy is licensed and sells approved medicines. The seal to look out for is blue and oval-shaped and says “National Association Boards of Pharmacy” around the red letters VIPPS, short for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. A list of sites with that accreditation is available at www.VIPPSpharmacies.net.
The drug company’s warning comes with a website that you can visit called www.AWARERx.com , and a video series on YouTube at www.youtube.com/spotfakemeds. It is worth a look if you buy your medication online. So while I don’t trust Pfizer’s motive, I do applaud its efforts.