Drug Companies, Law Enforcement Take Steps To Minimize Proliferation Of Fake Drugs

“This one right here (picks up) is coming from China…” says Christian Crawford, of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

They may look real…but these pills are fake.

From counterfeit cancer-fighting drugs…to cholesterol medication…even Viagra…prescriptions meant to treat patients are being manufactured overseas
with materials that could kill you.

“They're cutting it with rat poison. They're cutting it with gypsum board. We've seen leaded highway paint on some of our yellow medicines,” says John Clark, Vice President & Chief Security Officer for Pfizer.

Pfizer tested counterfeit drugs for ABC News news using a mobile lab that instantly indicates if a dose is fake, and the drug maker is now working with law enforcement overseas to crack down on massive operations producing phony pills.

“With printing… computers.. and the internet… it's relatively easy now,” Clark says.

The key is packaging. It's hard to tell the fake pills from real ones. Counterfeiting experts also say most are produced in Asia…and sold without a prescription.

“Hugely sold on the internet Craigslist…” says Kris Buckner, from Investigative Consultants.

“We've seen a real spike in counterfeit drugs coming through…” says Anne Maricich, from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it's crackdown on fake drugs is so heavy…criminals are now hiding pills inside speakers, beauty products, and power supplies.

Brandi Hitt, reporting: “Here, they X-Ray more than a million parcels each month and have even found counterfeit items inside shoes.”

There are dozens of legitimate websites that sell safe pharmaceuticals…as long as you know what to look for.

“Do they require a prescription? Do they have a pharmacist onsite? And, are they located in the United States?” says Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Medical Editor.

Brandi Hitt: “There are people who will say, 'I can't afford these drugs…so I have to turn to these means'.”

“If it were a dollar…you'd find a counterfeiter selling it for 30 cents,” says Clark.

And, investigators say, oftentimes, the counterfeit pill will contain no active medicine at all.

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