By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter
St. Louis (KSDK) - We have new information regarding an I-Team investigation into fake Viagra and the counterfeit drug market that is putting U.S. consumers at risk.
In February, the I-Team exposed filthy Chinese warehouses, where counterfeiters produced fake Viagra and sold them to customers around the world. We showed a pill compression machine next to a toilet, and industrialized highway paint used to color the little blue pills.
To see what would happen if someone from St. Louis went to one of these web sites, we put it to the test.
We Googled cheap Viagra and purchased the product from two different Canadian websites. What should have cost $200 in the states only cost $60.
Ten days later, a package arrived, not from Canada, but from New Delhi, India. And, it wasn't Viagra, but something called Nizagara. It's important to note that Nizagara is an approved generic for Viagra in India. But the Nizagara we received was counterfeit.
Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra, tested the pills for us. The drug did have some of Viagra's active ingredient. But it also was contaminated with an arthritis drug.
Brian Donnelly heads security for Pfizer in North America. He said, "If you are allergic to that product you could have a severe allergic reaction and you can have serious medical problems."
When it comes to buying products from what you think are safe on-line Canadian websites, it's buyer beware. Donnelly said, "You are effectively playing Russian roulette. You don't know what you're going to get."
What is even more interesting is that the product was for export only. People in India could not buy it.
Independent pharmacists contacted for this report say the counterfeit drug trade is a real health danger.
In fact, some counterfeits are making their way into legitimate supply chains.
Last month, the maker of the top-selling cancer drug Avastin and the Food and Drug Administration reported finding counterfeit vials of the drug.
The fake drug, which was imported, does not contain the active ingredient in real Avastin.
Authorities refuse to name the country it was imported from. But, sources say investigators are keying in on an Egyptian supplier.
Avastin's maker, Roche Holding, said earlier this month it had warned doctors, hospitals and patient groups that a counterfeit version of the medicine has been found in the U.S. It isn't clear how much of the counterfeit product was distributed in the U.S. or whether it has caused any harm. Roche's U.S. unit, Genentech, says it doesn't know whether any patients were given the fake drug.
The Food and Drug Administration is investigating, and has sent letters to 19 medical practices, mostly in California, but also in Texas and Illinois, that the agency says buys unapproved cancer medicines and might have bought the counterfeit Avastin.
Not all foreign on-line pharmacies deserve a bad reputation, but none of them are FDA approved or inspected. Experts say to ensure U.S. safety standards, order from a website that has a blue oval VIPPS seal of approval on it, and confirm that site has been approved by The National Association Boards of Pharmacy.
If you think you may have purchased counterfeit medication, contact the drug company that makes the product. They may test it for you.
To view a list of not recommended pharmacy sites listed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, visit their website.
To find a VIPPS accredited on-line pharmacy, click here.