Drug Giant Pfizer has publicly warned men about the dangers of buying drugs over the internet.

In a report, commissioned by the company, research found one in 10 men had bought Rx drugs without a prescription and 50% of these men had purchased the drugs over the internet.

Dr David Gillen, Pfizer’s Medical Director, described the situation as “men gambling with their lives”.

“Men bypassing the health system to purchase medicines is a growing problem in the UK, particularly relating to the increased availability of counterfeit medicines. These new findings show that men are not only often ignorant about what medicine actually requires a prescription but worryingly they know buying medicine from illicit sources might be harmful but convenience and anonymity often outweigh their fear levels,” he said.

Generally pharma companies remain tight-lipped publicly regarding counterfeit drugs, but have strong forces behind the scenes to fight the black market. It may seem unusual for Pfizer to speak out, but its blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (sildenafil) is the top counterfeited drug, alongside other ED drugs, in a black market that is expected to be worth $75 billion by 2010.

The Cracking Counterfeit report has been undertaken to provide an insight into why the public is buying prescription only medicine from illicit sources.

Other figures in the study found 68% of men suspect ingredients in counterfeit drugs are not the authentic medicines, 37% of men said their reason to purchase medicines without a prescription was convenience and speed, and only 40% of men knew that erectile dysfunction drugs were legally available only with a prescription.

The report also highlighted that it was not only erectile dysfunction drugs that were being purchased without a prescription – drugs for smoking cessation, weight loss, cholesterol-busting, depression, and even cancer were included.

Reports suggest 90% of all medicines sold on the internet are fake.

A national road show, commissioned by Pfizer, is traveling around the UK to warn people of the dangers associated with purchasing drugs without a prescription.