Introduction: Counterfeit medication is a growing problem. This study assessed the requirement for prescription, cost, origin, and content of medications sold via the Internet and purporting to be the phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor Viagra (sildenafil citrate).
Methods: Pfizer monitored top search results for the query "buy Viagra" on the two leading Internet search engines in March 2011. Orders were placed from 22 unique Web sites claiming to sell Viagra manufactured by Pfizer. Tablets received were assessed for chemical composition.
Results: No Web site examined required a prescription for purchase or a health screening survey; 90% offered illegal "generic Viagra." Cost per tablet ranged from $3.28-$33.00. Shipment origins of purchases were Hong Kong (N = 11), the United States (N = 6), and the United Kingdom (N = 2) as well as Canada, China, and India (N = 1 each). Notably, the four Internet pharmacies claiming to be Canadian did not ship medication from a Canadian address. Of 22 sample tablets examined, 17 (77%) were counterfeit, 4 (18%) were authentic, and 1 (5%) was an illegal generic. Counterfeit tablets were analyzed for sildenafil citrate, the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) of Viagra, and contents varied between 30% and 50% of the label claim. Counterfeits lacked product information leaflets, including appropriate safety warnings, and genuine Viagra formulations.
Conclusion: Internet sites claiming to sell authentic Viagra shipped counterfeit medication 77% of the time; counterfeits usually came from non-U.S. addresses and had 30% to 50% of the labeled API claim. Caution is warranted when purchasing Viagra via the Internet.
© 2012 International Society for Sexual Medicine.