It’s no wonder so many Americans have turned to the Web in search of affordable prescriptions—the average family shelled out nearly $1,000 for out of pocket medical costs in the first quarter of 2012 alone.
And criminals have taken note.
Nearly 80 per cent of the ingredients in the US drug supply come from overseas. The FDA only inspects about 12% of those facilities per year.
This early morning raid on a Peruvian drug storage facility took 200 officers and a team of investigators assembled by Pfizer. The drug giant has to work hard to protect its products, including Viagra, one of the most counterfeited drugs in the world.
Counterfeiters aren't using state-of-the-art technology. Crude packaging machines like these are used along with silk screens that have been imprinted with logos from name-brand drugs.
Drugs are most often produced in pretty unsavory conditions. Here's a counterfeit drug den busted by Pfizer's global security team.
Yet their techniques are so advanced that it's entirely impossible for the average consumer to spot fakes.
In 2008, more than 80 people in the U.S. allegedly died from dosages of blood thinner Heparin. It turned out counterfeit ingredients traced back to China made their way into supplies in 10 countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada and France.
The counterfeit drug trade is oftentimes run by former narcotic traffickers who've realised they can make a bigger profit peddling fake Viagra.
Another trick sites use to dupe consumers looking for low-cost drugs: fake security logos from reputable companies.
But those postage stamps are just a rouse. Often, scammers will ship drugs from warehouses clear across the globe. A middle-man intercepts the packages and slaps on Canadian or UK postage stamps before shipping them off to customers.
Bigger drug loads are sent via air cargo, but even if Customs intercepts suspicious packages, they aren't authorised to dispose of them. More often than not, they wind up shipping them back to wherever they came from.
This is the U.S. Customs haul at JFK International Airport after just one day. It's all going back to senders.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy keeps detailed lists of online sites that sell legitimate pharmaceuticals.