The Illegal World of Counterfeit Medications

These days, purchasing prescription medications through the Internet is a commonplace activity. But, could your online purchasing habits be putting your health at risk? Pfizer’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall joins The Doctors to share shocking details about the illegal world of counterfeit drugs. 

“Counterfeit drugs are a health hazard,” Dr. Lewis-Hall says. She explains that while some counterfeit medications may lack the active ingredient that makes the drug effective, others could have the wrong amount of active ingredient or even a different ingredient.

“At best, it can make them ineffective; at worst, it can make them deadly,” she says.

According to John Clark, chief global security officer for Pfizer, counterfeit pills have been found in up to 120 different countries. When purchasing medications online, he says, avoid sites that do not require a prescription. He also notes that logos signifying the site has been certified by reputable organizations can be counterfeited as well. And it’s not just your health you may be endangering by ordering from untrustworthy sites: Clark warns that a shady site could also steal your identity from the credit card information you submit.

To be sure you are ordering from a reputable source, check with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Dr. Lewis-Hall offers the following tips for when you receive your prescription in the mail:

  • Inspect the packaging and the product
  • Check the color, texture and smell of the pills
  • Look for evidence of tampering
  • If concerned, call your pharmacist, the manufacturer or the FDA MedWatch Program

For more information about counterfeit medications, visit