GROTON, Ct./ARLINGTON, Va., (WUSA) -- "Each time my son was injected with with the drug, he would scream out in pain," says Kevin Fagan.
"Several months before Maxine's death, she noticed the Procreate wasn't working," Max Butler says.
One father. One brother. Both testified before Congress in 2005 about how their loved ones suffered from the very drugs that were supposed to make them better.
Butler says, "Maxine died October 24, 2002."
In both instances, the families say they used legitimate pharmacies. But, the criminals were still able to break through the added layer of protection that typically comes with a well known chain.
But there's an even more sinister world online. An underbelly network that takes advantage of people in search of affordable prescription options.
TheNational Association ofBoards of Pharmacy says of the 10,000 websites they reviewed, 97 percent of them were peddling counterfeit or substandard medications. And, they profit.
"You're talking about people's lives," says Pfizer's Brian Donnelly.
They profit off what could get into your medicine cabinet. The investigators at Pfizer's lab in Connecticut know all about how they try to game consumers. They granted us behind the scenes access to their version of a CSI type lab to peel back the layers of deception.
"This subject counterfeit Norvasc is composed almost completely of talc which is ground up rock, says Dr. John Thomas. He heads up the Intellectual Property Forensic Lab at Pfizer.
You wouldn't know at first that your lifesaving pill or vial was actually a dud.
'They're hoping for a cure. They're hoping to lick the disease. And, now their only chance has been taken away from them," Donnelly says.
So, what's really in those so-called cancer drug and antibiotic Pfizer tested in its lab. Well, it turns out investigators found no active ingredients at all. The one thing that is in them, sugar.
They also found pills designed to treat cholesterol, cancer and blood pressure to be fake, too.
Former FBI agent turned Pfizer's Global Security director, Brian Donnelly knows just how hard it is to put these bogus online pharmacies out of business.
Donnelly says, "When it comes to counterfeits, the counterfeiter is only interested in one thing, does this counterfeit look enough like the real product so that I can sell it and get the maximum amount for it."
Just about anybody can set up shop. Undercover agents record fraudsters who are already scamming the system.
"We're using actually a new improved filler formula that I've been working on for the last couple of months. This will improve the overall shine of the product," says the fraudster.
ICE raids in South America, provided by Pfizer, give you a snapshot of the war on counterfeit drugs fueled by sugar, boric acid, and created in places with no standards at all.
It starts with a pill press and a makeshift lab to yourcomputer.
And, although these websites look legit, the average person may not realize it isn't.
Mark Witzal heads up theIntellectual PropertyTeam for Homeland Security. As the Deputy Director for the National IPR Center he knows all about this problem. Witzal says thousands of bogus websites are created everyday. But those deep discounts could come at a steep cost to your health.
"They are offering these drugs without a prescription and that's dangerous," Witzal says.
Dr. Thomas says, "This is probably the most counterfeited product in the world."
It's the little blue pill known as Viagra. When it comes to knock offs, this one is king.
"The bands are different in color, sometimes they put a dot over the name Pfizer Labs which is incorrect, sometimes they do misspellings," says Dr. Thomas.
Even with these tell-tale signs in view, the counterfeiters make it hard for you to know what's real and what's not.
But, the experts on the front line of this war on drugs hope you'll think twice before you put your life on the line, just to save a buck or two on your next prescription.
Again, we know many people turn to online pharmacies for a deal.
But, if a price seems too good to be true, it's probably a fake.
And, sites that offer you drugs without a prescription are breaking the law.
By the way, just last week Pfizer decided to get into the online business. It's selling those coveted blue billson www.viagra.com.