Most of us feel pretty safe when we pick up our medications at the pharmacy or fill our prescriptions through mail order prescription companies. I know I do. My father's a pharmacist and I've not once wondered if the drugs I'd been prescribed to take were anything but the real thing.

According to the government, though, counterfeit drugs are turning into one of the fastest-growing industries. The WHO (World Health Organization) says that as many as 40 million of the 4 billion prescriptions filled yearly in the U.S. may be fake; filled with inactive, filler, or dangerous ingredients - which means that a lot of chronic health issues go untreated, even as we try to stay on top of them.

That's pretty darn scary!

The following are the drugs most likely to be faked, along with tips for avoiding getting anything but what you need:

1) Antibiotics: With cold and flu season a-knocking at our door, it's pretty scary to think that antibiotics could mean the difference between living and dying for someone very sick. That's not just unpleasant, that's darn freaky!

Tips to Avoid Fake Antibiotics: Don't buy over-the-counter antibiotics in Mexico, Canada, or anywhere they're sold without a prescription to avoid fake antibiotics. And get all of them filled at an authorized pharmacy.

2) Erectile Dysfunction Drugs: "Lifestyle" drugs, like Viagra and Cialis, are actually the most likely of all ED drugs to be counterfeited, probably because most guys don't want to have "The Talk" with their doctor. Instead, don't buy the meds without a prescription. And NEVER take them without an exam first.

Tips To Avoid Fake ED Drugs: Suck it up and talk to your doctor about these ED meds - while it's embarrassing, having an exam before taking ED meds can save your life.

3) Mental Health Medications: Lots of often-used medications to treat depression, anxiety, and psychotic episodes are being counterfeited.

Tips for Avoiding Fake Mental Health Meds: Use a legitimate pharmacy or an online pharmacy recommended by your doctor. Don't succumb to the urge to buy anti-anxiety agents off someone else.

4) Cancer Drugs: This just makes me sick to think about - people who have cancer taking fake anti-cancer drugs.

Tips For Getting Real Anti-Cancer Drugs: If you're being treated at a hospital or oncology clinic with a good reputation, you're probably okay. Double-check with your oncologist to make sure the clinic or hospital buys your anti-cancer drugs from a licensed source.

5) Heart Medications: To make sure certain people don't have a heart attack or stroke, there are a number of heart medications used to treat high cholesterol, hypertension, and thin the blood. Pretty scary to think that these drugs that are supposed to be preventing problems may not be doing their jobs.

How To Avoid Getting Fake Heart Meds: Don't buy your drugs online, EVEN if they're cheaper. As your doc for a reputable online pharmacy or get your meds directly from a licensed pharmacy.

Do you worry about getting counterfeited drugs?


Image via Purple Penning/Flickr