When it comes to Viagra, counterfeiters just can't get enough

DOJ nabs two, saying they brought counterfeits in from China
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When it comes to Pfizer's ($PFE) erectile dysfunction blockbuster Viagra, counterfeiters just can't get enough. Pfizer says it is the company's most counterfeited drug. It may be the most counterfeited drug across the board. In the latest display of its counterfeiting attraction, the Department of Justice has indicted two men it says brought in thousands of counterfeit and misbranded Viagra tablets from China.

Jamal Khattab, 49, of Katy, TX, and Fayez Al-Jabri, 45, of Chicago, have been charged in an 11-count indictment, unsealed Tuesday in Texas. The feds said they learned what the two were up to when authorities in San Francisco intercepted a shipment of counterfeit drugs coming in from China and being delivered to Khattab in Houston. The feds got a federal agent to infiltrate the men's operation, and he bought 17,000 counterfeit and misbranded Viagra tablets from them in a 7-month period in 2011. If they are convicted, each of the men face 5 years in federal prison and $250,000 fines for conspiracy. If Khattab is also convicted of smuggling goods into the U.S., he will face up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $2.5 million.

Pfizer has been chasing down Viagra counterfeiters for about as long as the drug has been on the market, working with law enforcement to nab the worst offenders. Often the drugs are sold through online pharmacies, which men turn to because they are more discreet than picking up a prescription at their pharmacy. In May, Pfizer said it was going to try to undermine that supply route for counterfeiters by setting up its own online Viagra sales site. The company has offered money-off coupons to kick off the site, including three free pills with the first order and 30% off the second. The drugmaker is working with CVS Caremark ($CVS) to actually fill the orders placed on the Viagra website.

There is another reason that Viagra may become a less frequent target of counterfeiters. While Pfizer continues to have patent protection on Viagra in the U.S. through 2020, it has lost it in much of the rest of the world. When patent protection rolled off in Europe in June, 20 generic companies were ready to flood the market. 

- here's the DOJ release

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