The cholesterol medication Lipitor is frequently cited as among the top counterfeit targets in the developed world. And it's no surprise, given the $11.4 billion it earned Pfizer last year
Diet pills are another common target, especially from illegal online pharmacies. One such incident occurred earlier this year, when the FDA warned of counterfeit Alli, an over-the-counter weight-loss product. Lab tests by maker GlaxoSmithKline revealed that the fakes contained none of the active ingredient, orlistat. Instead, the counterfeits contained the controlled substance sibutramine, an appetite suppressant.
Consumers began reporting suspected counterfeit Alli to GSK in early December 2009, says the FDA. The fakes have been sold online, but haven't yet been spotted at retailers.
As reported by Reuters, a Pfizer-sponsored European study found almost half of all drugs purchased online were for weight loss.
And investigators in Poland and the Netherlands recently found available via the Internet counterfeits of Sanofi-Aventis's obesity drug Acomplia, even though the company ceased selling it 2008. Analysis shows the fakes have effective levels of the active ingredient, rimonabant. But they also contain impurities, unapproved substances and even other drugs.