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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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Counterfeit Drug Example: Lipitor

Comparison between authentic and suspect Lipitor tablet

Counterfeiters nowadays use very advanced means to produce their products. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to tell the real product from an imposter without sophisticated equipment.

This slide shows two versions of a Lipitor tablet. The one on the left is the authentic, FDA-approved version of Lipitor. The one on the right is an imposter.  Note the imposter tablet has poor “debossing” (imprinting) and a thicker (bevel) edge, which is difficult to detect even at these enlarged sizes. This image overlay of the side view of both tablets shows the authentic drug and the counterfeit drug have different thicknesses. This shows that counterfeiters don't make the products to the same specifications that manufacturers of FDA-approved drugs are required to follow. Even if a pharmacist or consumer could detect physical visual differences, they would not be able to tell if active ingredients were present and in what amount.