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Counterfeit prescription drugs coming into Colorado

10:41 PM, Oct 4, 2012   |    comments
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Those are the findings of investigators with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

"We have a number of ongoing investigations," said Kumar Kibble, Special Agent in charge of ICE-HSI in Denver.

ICE-HSI, in partnership with the Department of Justice, seized 686 websites that were illegally selling counterfeit medications.

Project "Bitter Pill" is part of a global law enforcement operation known as "Pangea V."

According to an ICE press release, "Pangea is an annual operation aimed at disrupting the organized crime networks behind the illicit online sale of fake drugs. Worldwide, preliminary results show Pangea has accounted for 79 arrests and the seizure of 3.7 million doses of potentially life-threatening counterfeit medicines worth an estimated value of $10.5 million. Additionally, approximately 18,000 websites engaged in illegal sale of counterfeit drugs were taken down."

Kibble says those sites will sell counterfeit drugs to anyone, even people without a prescription.

"Their money is going to fund an organized criminal network that is then using those proceeds to continue to push fake and potentially harmful drugs around the world," Kibble said.

A quick Google search will pop up thousands of sites where anyone can buy medication without a prescription.

Just a few clicks and you'll find thousands of websites selling discount drugs.

Raymond Jones says his aunt relies on medication she buys online.

"It's a life or death matter, for her diabetes and her kidney problems, to try and help her save money," Jones said.

Tom Kirschling, director of Denver Health's acute care pharmacy, says that financial savings could come with a greater price.

"They're really gambling with their health and potentially their life," Kirschling said.

Kirschling says drugs bought online may contain harmful ingredients. They may also be too strong or too weak, which could lead to life threatening complications.

"Really something devastating such as a heart attack," Kirschling said.

Out of 10,000 prescription drug websites reviewed, 97 percent are not recommended by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Around 87 percent of those sites don't even require a prescription, and 50 percent sell drugs that are not approved by the FDA.

Jones worries about the consequences of taking fake medication.

"[A] 13-year-old child [can] get online and get prescription medications that are not even prescribed to them. That's very dangerous," Jones said. "It could cost lives, like my Aunt. It could cost her life."

To know if your online pharmacy is legitimate, look for the VIPPS symbol which means the site is verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

CHECK OUT YOUR ONLINE PHARMACY HERE

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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