FDA Campaign Aims to Protect Consumers from the Risks of Fake Online Pharmacies

FDA Campaign Aims to Protect Consumers from the Risks of Fake Online Pharmacies

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a new national campaign to raise public awareness about the prevalence of fraudulent Internet pharmacies, which can be dangerous to patient health, and to help consumers make safe purchases.

BeSafeRx – Know Your Online Pharmacy provides resources for patients and caregivers who might purchase medication online to better understand who they are buying from, and that the medication they buy matches what their doctor prescribed.

Nearly 1 in 4 Internet consumers has purchased prescription medicine online, according to a new FDA survey. At the same time, nearly 30 percent said they lacked confidence about how to make safe online purchases. The risk of purchasing from a rogue seller is high, with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reporting that less than 3 percent of online pharmacies meet state and federal laws.

"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, M.D. "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."

Fraudulent online pharmacies use sophisticated marketing efforts or phony web storefronts to appear legitimate. Patients who buy medicines from these websites may be putting their health at risk because the products may contain the wrong ingredients, contain too little, too much, or no active ingredient at all, or be made with other harmful ingredients.

Patients should only purchase prescription medications from online pharmacies that:

  • Require a valid prescription from a doctor or other health care professional
  • Are located in the United States
  • Have a licensed pharmacist available for consultation
  • Are licensed by the patient's state board of pharmacy

In addition to tips and information for patients and caregivers, the FDA has also developed BeSafeRx campaign materials for other federal agencies, nonprofit and private organizations to use for their own educational efforts. These resources can be found at www.FDA.gov/BeSafeRx.