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2 Investigators: Fake Viagra Could Kill You

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Counterfeit Viagra seized by federal officials. (CBS)

Counterfeit Viagra seized by federal officials. (CBS)

Dave Savini Dave Savini
Award-winning Chicago journalist Dave Savini serves as investigative...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Filthy warehouses filled with fake prescription drugs have been raided in numerous countries. Countless dangerous pills have been seized before they could head to the United States.

CBS 2′s Dave Savini worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to examine the booming “pill mill” industry.

Agency spokesman Brian Bell opened boxes of pills that had been seized by Customs at O’Hare International Airport. These pills had been sold via the Internet and were being shipped to people who believed they were buying the erectile-dysfunction medication Viagra.

Counterfeit samples Bell displayed had the wrong color or were labeled incorrectly. One batch was labeled Vilagra.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say counterfeit Viagra, Levitra and Cialis, all erectile dysfunction pills, are flooding the market. Last year, officers seized 330 shipments of fake erectile-dysfunction pills.  This year, that number nearly quadrupled to 1,200 seizures.

These pills can be dangerous for a number of reasons. Often they are manufactured in dirty, disgusting, black-market labs overseas.

What is inside the pills could make you sick. Some bogus manufacturers put high doses of Sildenafil, the active ingredient in erectile-dysfunction medication, into the pills.

“They don’t have the first clue,” Bell says of buyers who order the fake medications. “They are thinking that they are getting a legitimate product.”

Raids in Montreal uncovered commercial-grade paint used to color the bogus pills. In Ecuador, boric acid was one of the ingredients used to manufacture the pills. Pills found in a Colombian operation were loaded with rat poison, while speed was found in pills made in Hungary.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently found 1,000 bogus online pharmacies, agency spokeswoman Lisa Misevicz says.

“These counterfeiters don’t care about your safety,” she says. “When you circumvent the system, and you buy your prescriptions online from a rogue pharmacy, there’s a great potential for danger.”

Increased demand for real erectile-dysfunction pills has driven people to online pharmacies looking to find cheaper pills.

Customs and the FDA are hoping their crackdown on phony pill operations will slow the illegal flow, especially since some of those pills have 10 times the dosage of the real drugs.

“That could kill somebody very easily,” said Bell.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has helpful information for consumers. Click here to visit the organization’s website.

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