Fake Viagra apparently sourced in China

China appears to be the source of counterfeit Viagra and Cialis sold over the Internet by a Puerto Rican man for $2 a pill who now faces a $2 million fine and 10 years in jail.

His conviction came on the same day as authorities got their hands on one of the big kahunas of Internet drug sales, Andrew Strempler, who once ran an Internet pharmacy in Canada. It also comes as they try to get a handle on a growing threat from counterfeits and on the proliferation of Internet sites that are often their source.

Luis Angel Garcia Torres, 41, of Patillas, Puerto Rico, will be sentenced in August after his June 14 conviction in Texas, according to a release by the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations. It says agents with the Department of Homeland Security bought the fake erectile dysfunction drugs from Torres over several months in 2010. Torres bought the counterfeit versions of Pfizer's ($PFE) Viagra and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Cialis, apparently from China, for 45 cents a pill and sold them for $2 when the retail price of the real drugs ranged from $15 to $20. 

Internet sales of counterfeit drugs have become a loose link in the supply chain that poses a particular challenge to regulators because there are so many of them. But where they once seemed to specialize in fakes of erectile dysfunction drugs, they are now branching into other areas, sometimes exploiting those drugs in short supply. Regulators recently identified an Internet site as the source of counterfeit versions of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' ($TEVA) ADHD drug Adderall. The short-acting form of Adderall has been in short supply since last year. At least some of the fakes contained painkillers, including the potentially habit-forming tramadol, instead of the active ingredient. Some of the counterfeits of Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin discovered in the U.S. in February were sourced through an established Canadian pharmacy company that delivers discounted prescription drugs from overseas to U.S. citizens.

Strempler was arrested in Florida recently and charged on a June 2011 indictment, accusing him and his former company RxNorth.com of selling and shipping to U.S. consumers fake and misbranded drugs between early 2005 and the summer of 2006. Strempler sold his company to a competitor in 2006, and was believed to have moved to the Caribbean after U.S. authorities accused him of selling counterfeit medications.

- here's the FDA press release

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