Scott Marks 2:48 p.m., May 23
US State Department Warning:
U.S. law enforcement officials believe that as many as 25 percent of the medications available in Mexico are counterfeit and substandard. Such counterfeit medications may be difficult to distinguish from the real medications and could pose serious health risks to consumers.
The FDA warned the public about the sale of counterfeit versions of Lipitor, Viagra, and an unapproved product promoted as "generic Evista" to U.S. consumers at pharmacies in Mexican border towns. The "generic Evista" was analyzed by FDA in coordination with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and was found to contain no active ingredient. The counterfeit Lipitor and counterfeit Viagra were analyzed by Pfizer, Inc. and were also found to contain no active ingredient. Consumers who have any of these counterfeit products should not use them and should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
Another FDA Warning:
According to a report issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, counterfeit versions of Merck's blockbuster cholesterol medication Zocor (simvastatin), as well as Carisoprodol, a genetic muscle relaxer, were imported from Mexico by Americans looking for cheap prescription drugs.
Tests on the drugs, however, showed the counterfeit Zocor did not contain any active ingredients, and the counterfeit carisoprodol differed in potency compared with the authentic product. The drugs were sold under the names Zocor 40 mg (lot number K9784, expiration date November 2004), and Carisoprodol 350 mg (lot number 68348A).
The findings prompted the FDA to speak out against Americans buying drugs from foreign countries. "As demonstrated by this incident, purchasers cannot assume that the products meet the quality, efficacy and safety standards of FDA-authorized products, or that the FDA is assuring the quality, safety and efficacy of products purchased from outside the United States," the agency stated.
Marvin Shepherd, director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin:
"One in five drugs is counterfeit or substandard," Shepherd said, citing studies in medical literature. You can't always tell by looking. "There are no good ways to buy a product [in Mexico] and be sure it is not counterfeit."