Study: Half of Internet Viagra is fake

BY admin

September 29 2004 12:00 AM ET

As much as half of all Viagra anti-impotence medication sold on the Internet could be counterfeit, British scientists said on Tuesday. They analyzed samples of Viagra sold on the Web and found that some of the little blue pills contained different components or less of the active ingredient than the top-selling drug made by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. "On our initial estimate, around half of those Viagra samples could be counterfeit," Nic Wilson of the University of London told the British Pharmaceutical Conference.

Viagra, which works by allowing increased blood flow to the penis during sexual arousal, is considered a lifestyle drug along with hair-loss and weight treatments. All are widely available on the Internet and major targets for counterfeiters. With erectile dysfunction affecting about 152 million men worldwide, there is a huge market for the treatment. It is estimated that half of all men over 40 experience some degree of erectile dysfunction, the likelihood and severity of which increase with age. About 95% of cases can be successfully treated.

Viagra also is commonly used by gay men, often illicitly. Many gay men use the drug to enhance their sexual performance or fight off the erection-inhibiting effects of illegal club drugs like crystal methamphetamine. Citing studies linking Viagra use by gay men to higher rates of risky sex and sexually transmitted diseases, San Francisco STD prevention director Jeffrey Klausner in August petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to reclassify erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra as more-difficult-to-prescribe Schedule III controlled substances, to mandate that the drugs' manufacturers launch educational campaigns about the heightened STD risks, and to include warning labels on the drugs' packages. The FDA is seeking public comment on Klausner's proposal through February.

The bogus drugs identified by the British researchers were branded and labeled Viagra and came in identical packaging to the real thing. "What we are talking about is somebody selling something as Viagra which is clearly not made by Pfizer," Wilson's colleague Tony Moffat said in a telephone interview. The scientists are not sure whether wrong components in the bogus pills are harmful, but at the very least it is highly probable the fakes will not work. If the counterfeiters get the dose wrong and the bogus pills contain too much of the active ingredient, sildenafil, it could be dangerous. "Part of the side reaction of the sildenafil is increased heart pressure, so people could get heart attacks," Moffat said.

Wilson and Moffat used a technique called near infrared microscopy, which provides a more detailed picture of a tablet's active and inactive ingredients, to separate the fakes from the real thing. The researchers tested the technique on known counterfeit Viagra before using it on pills they bought on the Internet. Pills arrived from a variety of countries, including Thailand, India, and Malta. (Reuters, with additional reporting by Advocate.com)

Tags: Health

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