Fraudulent online pharmacies prompt FDA to fight back with new resource

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is crying fraud in the face of online pharmacies, citing a National Association of Boards of Pharmacy study which claims that 97 percent of some 10,065 Internet pill sources have violated state or federal law.

[See also: Brick-and-mortar pharmacies dominate market over mail-order operations]

In the wake of such damning statistics, the FDA has decided to rev-up a new digital resource, BeSafeRx – Know Your Online Pharmacy, to help patients and physicians outride the long con.

“Buying medicines from rogue online pharmacies can be risky because they may sell fake, expired, contaminated, not approved by FDA, or otherwise unsafe products that are dangerous to patients,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, in a news release. “Fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies often offer deeply discounted products. If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are. FDA’s BeSafeRx campaign is designed to help patients learn how to avoid these risks.”

A survey conducted recently by the FDA finds that approximately 1 in 4 Internet shoppers have made prescription purchases online. What’s more, nearly 30 percent of those queried said they didn’t feel confident in their knowledge of proper online buyer’s safety.

[See also: Generic medications effective, save industry $1 trillion over last decade]

As such, the FDA provided the below characteristics that legitimate virtual pharmacies should possess:

  • Requires a valid prescription from a doctor or other health care professional.
  • Is located in the United States.
  • Has a licensed pharmacist available for consultation.
  • Is licensed by the patient’s state board of pharmacy.

Conversely, unsafe Internet pharmacies will usually permit the following:

  • Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription from your doctor.
  • Offer deep discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true.
  • Send spam or unsolicited email offering cheap drugs.
  • Are located outside of the United States.
  • Are not licensed in the United States.

Corrupt online pharmacies make a profit off of selling counterfeit medications to unsuspecting consumers. Patients often do not know they have been duped until their conditions worsen following pill consumption or new harm is inflicted.

"[Counterfeit products] are substandard and don't have the active pharmaceutical ingredients in them at the levels that they should," Hamburg explained.

Because counterfeit items can seldom be identified as such by the untrained eye, the FDA encourages physicians to share the BeSafeRx resource with patients as well as inform them of the proper statistics as a means to lessen the widespread affect of such unseen dangers.  [See also: FDA warns on counterfeit Adderall]

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