Popular prescription drugs are easy to find on black market websites that look completely legitimate. Enter your credit card information and in just a few weeks, packages arrive from exotic locations like China, India and Pakistan.
They even come with official looking customs forms that say the package contains plastic beads or "harmless medicine."
When you open the packages, the drugs often look like the real thing. But, once these pills were sent to a lab run by drug manufacturer Pfizer, the truth was revealed.
"So I have some idea of how dangerous these things can be," said Brian Donnelly, director of investigations for Pfizer.
Donnelly is a pharmacist who spent 22 years working for the FBI. Donnelly says the actual pill may not be made in one place.
"Active ingredient, the chemical could be in one part of China. The person who makes the tablets could be in another part of China. And then the person who packages it could be a third person and then the distributor," he explained.
Donnelly says the counterfeiter is only concerned with one thing -- whether or not the pills look real.
"They may use floor wax on it to give it a shine. They've used automobile paint for the coloring of these things. They've used ink cartridges for coloring. And we've seen boric acid as an example used to give the tablet its size and shape. One of their favorite things for making the tablets out of is sheetrock," Donnelly added.
Donnelly's team investigates dozens of counterfeiters each year. Working with local law enforcement, they bust "fake labs" that are far from the sterile environments where real drugs are made.
He uses a handheld device called a "true scan" to instantly tell if a pill is fake or not.
"You have no idea where that drug has been manufactured, you have no idea how it's been stored," said Donnelly.
Back in the lab, the biggest concern is what scientists actually found mixed together.
"Diclofenac, which is an anti-inflammatory. When you get something that's contaminated with another drug you have the potential for someone getting sick," according to Donnelly.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacies reviewed more than 10,000 pharmacy websites and found that only three percent met pharmacy laws and standards. And your health isn't the only thing at risk. Investigators found rampant credit card fraud and identity theft associated with these rogue pharmacy websites