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Fake Drugs Uncovered in Pharmacies
Aired May 15, 2003 - 19:27 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Welcome back. How safe is the prescription medication you pick up at the drugstore and is it the real kind of medication?
"USA Today" reports more and more fakes, mislabeled and mishandled drugs are showing up in pharmacies all across the country. The question how does drug counterfeiting work and how what could this mean to you? Wanted to find out. So to sort it out we bring in the reporter who wrote the article, Julie Appleby.
Julie, thank you very much for being with us. The article is really fascinating and really alarming. I just picked up some Lipitor today at the pharmacy and I opened it up and I'll tell you, after reading your article, I opened it up and I'm thinking is this stuff real. How can anyone be sure that -- I mean, do you trust the medication you get at the pharmacy?
JULIE APPLEBY, "USA TODAY" CORRESPONDENT: Well, in general, yes, but, there is a growing concern that a number of drugs have made it all the way to pharmacies that aren't real, that are counterfeit or mislabeled or somehow adulterated and this has got investigators very concerned.
COOPER: And I mean, it's not just a concern for wasting money on drugs. I mean, this stuff can kill you in some cases. What are the drugs we're talking about and what effects does the fake stuff have on these people?
APPLEBY: Well, investigators say generally these are the higher priced drugs, drugs that the forgers, so to speak can make more money off, so we're talking anemia treatments like Epogen and Procrit, AIDS drugs like Siristem (ph) and other drugs like Ziprexia for schizophrenia. Some of them are tablets and of them injectible drugs.
COOPER: And obviously, if you're not taking your schizophrenia medication, I mean, the people who have it, it just can be devastating not only for them, but the people around them.
How does this happen? I mean, most people think the drugs just go from the maker to the pharmacist. Not so.
APPLEBY: Right. And that's what I thought before I started working on this story, but actually only about 46 percent of the drugs go directly from the maker to the pharmacy. The rest go to wholesalers, and of those about 90 percent go to three largest wholesalers in the country and that would be Cardinal, McKesson (ph) and Amier-Sorsbergen (ph). And those drugs often go directly to a pharmacy from those wholesalers.
But there's a percentage of the drugs that do go from small wholesaler to small wholesaler and they can be sold several different times and this is why investigators say that bad and problem drugs can get into the system.
COOPER: I want to show a graphic, just to give a sense of how much money can be made, why people are doing this. This is potential fake drug profits. This is for a drug Epogen. Low-dose of Epogen, $25 per vial. High dose $495 per vial. So obviously, that's a potential profit of $470. So there's a lot of money to be made.
APPLEBY: Right. This is proving irresistible to folks. They're looking at that and saying, "Wow, I can take that $25 vial, change the label to make it look like its the highest dose vial and make quite a large profit." And that's what investigators say is happening with some of these higher priced drugs.
And that's why they're increasingly worried because we're going to see more and more of these higher priced drugs coming on the market as we see more genetically engineered medications and that kind of thing coming out of our biotech labs. So they're very concerned that this could be a growing problem.
COOPER: Julia Appleby, appreciate you joining us. It is just a scary article in "USA Today." Thanks very much.
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