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You'd be wise to talk to your doctor and ignore the hundreds of websites that purport to sell the blockbuster drug at a low cost — sometimes it's even offered free of charge — often without a prescription.
Viagra, which in the past advertised heavily on TV, but no longer does, is a well-known prescription medicine for erectile dysfunction (ED). It also has the distinction of being one of the most counterfeited drugs in the world, says its marketer, Viatris, which estimates that 30 million men in the U.S. suffer from ED.
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Online buyers beware
Sketchy websites with catchy names abound: viagra-for-love.com, viagra.doctor.com and viagra-free.com, for example. The people behind the sites often operate in an underworld of drug counterfeiters, smugglers and internet sellers whose goal is to grab your attention — and your cash.
There are 650-plus sites with “Viagra” or something similar in their domain names that are labeled “not recommended” by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). State pharmacy regulators constitute the group, based in Mount Prospect, Illinois.
Consumers should avoid such sites at all cost, says NABP Executive Director Lemrey “Al” Carter, a pharmacist. Since federal and state officials in the U.S. rigorously regulate the supply chain for medicines, Carter says, consumers here “don't think twice about the integrity of the medications” from legitimate drugstores or health care professionals. But rogue online pharmacies exploit that confidence and “lure patients to the internet to seek lower-cost alternatives and put the patient's health and safety at risk,” he adds.
At Viatris, which markets Viagra, a spokesperson said patients are encouraged to purchase the brand-name drug or a generic with a valid prescription from a trusted national pharmacy chain.
Counterfeits can kill
Counterfeit drugs have caused serious injury and even death, warns Eli Lilly and Co., which makes another popular ED drug, Cialis. Global criminal networks produce and distribute counterfeit medicines of all kinds in more than 100 countries, and illicit profits in a single year have soared to many billions of dollars, the company says.
What's contained in counterfeit drugs in general? Things like blue printer ink, amphetamines, arsenic, boric acid, brick dust, cement powder, chalk dust, floor polish, leaded road paint, nickel, shoe polish and talcum powder, drug manufacturers say.
Here's guidance from Viatris and Eli Lilly's anti-counterfeiting measures.