Counterfeit Prescription Drug Operations Thrive in the US

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Prescription drugs continue to remain big business in the United States. Last year alone, the total retail sales for prescription drugs filled at American pharmacies topped $259 billion.

But as legal sales continue to rise, it’s perhaps not too surprising that illegal sales of these substances also continue to climb.

A Pharmaceutical Black Market


Counterfeit prescription drug rings throughout the U.S. sell these narcotics in plain daylight on the streets or retail stores.

Despite the fact that many of these pills are bogus, these rings continue to produce huge numbers.

A recent raid by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, conducted with the assistance of pharmaceutical company Merck, led to the confiscation of 415,000 doses of illicit pharmaceutical products.

“They could have dangerous contaminants,” said Howard Sklamberg, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Global Regulatory Operations, in a report from ABC News show 20/20.

“That’s just a really big risk to take with your health.”

He also noted that many of the counterfeit medications being sold don’t meet FDA standards.

The Dangers are Real

The 20/20 investigation found that several of the drugs confiscated in one raid either contained impurities or were expired.

Some consumers are simply trying to purchase the prescription drugs they need at a more affordable price. Many will try to order them online from Canada, but 20/20 examined several of these outlets and found not only that they were selling impure drugs, but that the substances weren’t even from Canada.

That isn’t entirely surprising to some health officials, though. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found that out of the 10,000 pharmacy sites they reviewed, only three percent complied with pharmacy laws and standards. Many of the websites display fake licenses and certifications.

The Trend Continues

The FDA took action against this in 2013, shutting down 9,600 websites that sold unapproved prescription medications and seizing $41 million of these illegal substances.

Despite this, a recent WKYC report noted that $75 billion worth of counterfeit drugs were unknowingly purchased last year.

And with prescription drug prices continuing to rise, many consumers will continue to shop on the Internet for cheaper alternatives.

If it turns out that you need to take a prescription drug, you should only get them from your doctor and fill the prescription at a certified pharmacy.

Shopping online or buying pills from someone off the street may seem like a fast and easy way to get your hands on the medications you need, but you’re also creating unnecessary and added health risks that simply aren’t worth it.



Learn more about the dangerous and unwanted side effects of drug abuse.

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