Revealed: thousands of Britons buy fake Viagra pills on the net

Thousands of British men are unwittingly buying fake Viagra over the internet from a website with a British business address. The drug, which has been confirmed by manufacturer Pfizer as a fake, could cause serious illness or kill.

The Independent on Sunday today exposes a racket in the sale of the popular impotence cure. The pills are sold as "Viagra" but, on analysis by the maker's laboratories, proved fake. Viagra, even in its pure form, is a potentially dangerous drug which can only be dispensed legally in Britain after face-to-face consultation with a GP.

A London-based firm offers the illicit Viagra "at unbelievably low prices" and says every sale is "overseen" by registered doctors. But the site's operators are now under investigation by the UK's medical safety agency, trading standards officers and the US drugs giant Pfizer after the IoS found the Viagra they claim to sell is counterfeit.

Pfizer has tested the drugs sold by paypill.com, and has found they "consist of counterfeit packaging and tablets". Although the pills did use Viagra's active ingredient, sildenafil citrate, it was in the wrong form. The case - the first involving an allegedly British website selling counterfeit Viagra - is the latest in a series of scams involving the illegal or bogus sale of the drug over the internet.

The government medicines safety agency seized £2.3m worth of illegal and fake Viagra last year and mounted numerous prosecutions. The offence carries a two-year jail sentence and unlimited fines.

The owners of the website paypill.com, trade as David Elson Ltd and claim to have offices in the US state of Delaware, London, Paris and Geneva. But there is no such company registered in the UK or in Delaware of that name.

Paypill's office, off Regent Street in London, is an accommodation address run by a completely different firm, and calls to its telephone numbers are taken by answering services. Mr Elson claimed in an email that all his pills were genuine Viagra from suppliers in north and Latin America - a claim Pfizer insists is false. He also insisted that all applications were vetted by qualified doctors.

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