Online Viagra samples filled with impurities

Research shows that typical generic sildenafil products from the internet contain impurity levels higher than allowed in the U.S. In addition, the generic products are made to be similar in appearance to those from legitimate drug manufacturers.

Research shows that typical generic sildenafil products from the internet contain impurity levels higher than allowed in the U.S. In addition, the generic products are made to be similar in appearance to those from legitimate drug manufacturers.

In the age of online shopping where “buy now” seems easier than scheduling an appointment with your doctor, many people have taken to buying medicines – even those that typically require prescriptions – online. A popular suspect? Versions of the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra are flooding the internet pharmacy market and it could be harmful to your health.

“Most people who want to purchase this drug might be too embarrassed to request it from a doctor,” said Michael Veronin, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “It’s much easier to buy it online in the privacy of their home.” Even more than that, it’s the top-selling drug sold on the internet, according to reports dating back as far as 2002. Pfizer, the company that sells the name brand Viagra, now sells its own line of the drug online in order to curb the sale of counterfeits, according to a report in May from CNN Money.

Veronin and his colleagues have discovered that many of the drugs sold as Viagra are filled with impurities or contaminants that are above the acceptable limits for drugs sold in the U.S. Impurities can happen when the drug is produced or stored. When customers receive the tablets, they appear to be the same as the real deal, with the same look and feel as the brand version, but what’s inside is anyone’s guess.

“We set out to find the levels of impurities in the different versions of the drugs sold online,” Veronin said. “What we found that some of the samples were more than five times the qualification threshold for impurities.”

While the prescriptions written for Viagra have increased over the years, the counterfeit purchases online without a prescription have risen even more. A simple internet search for Viagra online can result in more than 1.5 million hits, Veronin found in his research.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that consumers purchase medicines from legal sources, but they can only recommend. Most of the drugs tested by Veronin were from sources not regulated in the same way drugs in the U.S. and other international sources are today.

In previous studies, scientists have proven that the potency or the active ingredient of the drugs sold online were inconsistent and, in some cases, ineffective. Now, with Veronin’s findings that these drugs truly are risky, he hopes consumers purchase drugs where they know the source of production to ensure safety and potency.

“This is a form of counterfeiting, and I believe there are certain health risks involved when people use these drugs,” Veronin said. “Some of the findings in this research showed unacceptable levels of impurities and might cause alarm in the U.S. if patients were taking them. There are health risks especially in long-term use, but in addition, we aren’t sure what the impurities do in the human body.”

Veronin’s next step is to test the impurities to see what damage could be happening to people who use the substandard drugs they purchase online.

This research will be published in the coming months by “Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety” journal. Veronin says it is important for consumers to know the facts and the risks, especially after the market has seen a sharp rise in internet purchases of the drug.

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