Are discount drugs real or fake?

(CNBC) – On a busy stretch of U.S. Highway 441 in central Florida, about a mile from a Walgreen’s pharmacy and a mile and a half from the nearest CVS, sits a small storefront in a strip mall offering an alternative.

“Canadian Discount,” says the bright red and yellow sign on the window.

Inside, a woman wearing a headset is busily typing away. On the wall near her desk is a giant American flag, as well as paintings of icons like Nelson Mandela, Clint Eastwood and Michael Jackson (the Jackson painting is labeled “not for sale.”)

The woman cheerfully takes our order for a 90-day supply of the prescription cholesterol drug Lipitor. The price: $112.07, or $1.25 a pill. A Duane Reade pharmacy in New York City would later charge us more than five times that amount–$7.15 per pill–for what was supposed to be the exact same drug.

Shops like these are popping up everywhere, particularly in Florida with its high population of seniors. The firms are not pharmacies, nor do they claim to be. Known as “facilitators,” they simply place orders for people who are wary of using the thousands of sites offering discount prescription drugs online. The businesses claim to operate legally, though the U.S. drug industry says they are exploiting a legal loophole.

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