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7/1/2004

Fake Viagra Found in California

Donna Young

Counterfeit Viagra was discovered in two California pharmacies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday.

The counterfeit drugs bear the lot number 3023803 with an expiration date of March 1, 2006, which are the lot number and date used by Pfizer on legitimate sildenafil citrate distributed between July 1 and July 18, 2003, and resemble the size, shape, color, and imprinting of real Viagra tablets, according to FDA.

In a letter to pharmacists, Pfizer said that the contents of four 30-tablet bottles of products purporting to be 100-mg Viagra dispensed by a pharmacy in Glendale, California, has been confirmed to be counterfeit. But, the company stated, the second report from a Fresno pharmacist is "currently being investigated."

Pfizer said that the counterfeit product can be recognized in two ways:

1. Packaging

  • Black-ink print on the counterfeit label is excessively bolded,
  • Tablet-shaped border around strength field on the counterfeit label is pointed and the "1" of "100" touches the border,
  • Pfizer logos on the counterfeit label and foil seal are poorly rendered, and
  • Counterfeit foil seal contains less gloss and appears thinner than the authentic foil,

2. Tablets

  • Thinner "debossing" font than genuine tablets,
  • More pronounced tablet edges than genuine tablets,
  • Lighter blue film coat than genuine tablets, and
  • When cut, small blue particles can be seen in the normally pure white core of the split tablet.

Pfizer announced that it is introducing new security packaging for Viagra, which will arrive in pharmacies sometime before the end of the year.

A color-shift Pfizer logo, which changes from purple to blue when examined from various angles, will appear in the lower left-hand corner of the label's center panel on new containers, the company said.

The company is also introducing bottles with "squeeze-and-turn" closures. However, 100-count squeeze-and-turn containers of 100-mg Viagra will not be available until after 2004. No specific date was mentioned.

FDA stated that no injuries have been reported in connection with the counterfeit products found in Glendale and Fresno.

Pfizer and FDA are analyzing the counterfeit tables to determine their true composition and whether they pose any health risks, the agency said.

"FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations is actively investigating this case and the agency will aggressively prosecute those found responsible for any counterfeiting operation," the agency stated.

Pfizer advised anyone who suspects or discovers counterfeit products to contact their local FDA office or the agency toll-free at 888-463-6332.

FDA also advised consumers to contact their dispensing pharmacist if they have any questions about Viagra.

A list of wholesalers authorized to distribute Pfizer products is available on the company's Web site at www.pfizer.com/subsites/counterfeit_importation/mn_pharmacist_branded.html.