Pfizer has launched a prescription-fulfillment website for Viagra (sildenafil citrate) tablets in what the company describes as an effort to combat the online sale of counterfeited medicine. Patients with a valid prescription can purchase the drug online. CVS/pharmacy will handle the back-end functions, including the authentication of all prescriptions.
In a press statement, Pfizer reports that fake online pharmacies and the products they sell are an escalating public health threat. While the number of online pharmacies has increased in recent years to meet consumer demand, a recent review by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has shown that as few as 3% of websites selling prescription drugs are legitimate pharmacies, and up to half offer foreign or non-FDA-approved drugs.
“We have seen counterfeit medicines manufactured in filthy and deplorable conditions, yet some people do not realize the risks that this poses to their health and safety, our top priority,” said Matthew Bassiur, vice president, Pfizer Global Security in the press release. “Counterfeit medicines often contain the wrong or incorrect levels of active ingredient, as well as potentially dangerous contaminants. Samples of counterfeit Viagra tested by our labs have contained pesticides, wallboard, commercial paint and printer ink. These findings motivate us to continue our aggressive global efforts to stop those who prey on unsuspecting patients.”
In 2011, Pfizer Global Security evaluated 22 websites appearing in the top search results for the phrase “buy Viagra” and conducted chemical analysis of the pills advertised as Pfizer’s Viagra that were ordered from these outlets. The study found that about 80% of these pills were counterfeit, and while the fake Viagra pills contained the active ingredient, sildenafil citrate, the amount was only 30% to 50% of what was advertised.