BUSINESS
06/18/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Illegal Viagra Leads 24% Jump In Counterfeit Medicine Seizures

Counterfeit medicines are on the rise worldwide, as criminals capitalize on the growing use of the Internet by consumers searching for inexpensive drugs.

Seizures of bogus prescription medicines jumped 24 percent to 1,513 incidents in 2007, and illicit versions of 403 different prescription drugs were confiscated in 99 countries, according to the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, a Vienna, Virginia-group funded by 26 drugmakers. The $3 billion in counterfeit drugs seized include generic copies that violate patent laws and products that lack active chemical ingredients or contain improper dosages.

In the decade since Internet sites began selling illegal copies of Pfizer Inc.'s erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, counterfeiters have diversified, marketing pills to treat heart disease, arthritis, asthma, AIDS and cancer, according to the institute, which has been monitoring product seizures since the group was formed in 2002.

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