Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
prescription medicines online, it's better to be safe than sorry.
BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy, a new public education campaign by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is aimed at helping consumers understand and minimize the risks of buying medicines online.
In a recent FDA survey of Internet users, 29 percent of participants reported theywere unsure how to safely buy medicines online. Still, more than 20 percent of respondents reported using the Internet to buy prescription medicines.
The Internet makes it easier for fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies to sell medicines to American consumers outside the system of federal and state safeguards that protect patients from inappropriate or unsafe medicines. Medicines you purchase from fraudulent online pharmacies may put your health, or the health of your family, at risk.
"Many online consumers may not realize that they're buying from a fraudulent, illegal online pharmacy--and that the medicines they may receive could be counterfeit, contaminated, contain the wrong active ingredient, or not approved by FDA," says FDA pharmacist Connie Jung, R.Ph., Ph.D.
Medicines purchased from fraudulent online pharmacies may contain no active ingredient. (The active ingredients in medicines are responsible for their effects.) It's also possible that they'll have too much or too little of the active ingredient, or the wrong ingredient entirely. These medicines may also be contaminated with harmful substances, or be past their expiration dates.
As a result, says Jung, you may not receive the therapy you need. And, you may experience unexpected side effects and possibly get worse.
SOME RED FLAGS
According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), the professional organization that represents the state boards of pharmacy (or equivalent state agencies) that are responsible for licensing pharmacies, only 3 percent of online websites reviewed appear to meet state and federal pharmacy laws.
It's sometimes hard to tell that a website isn't trustworthy, says Jung. Many fraudulent online sellers use convincing marketing efforts and develop websites that look legitimate. Even careful consumers may be fooled. FDA is providing information through its BeSafeRx campaign to help consumers identify and avoid fraudulent pharmacy websites.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., says, "Fraudulent online pharmacies often offer deep discounts. If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are. BeSafeRx is designed to help patients learn how to avoid these risks and safely buy medicine online."
Jung also warns consumers not to be tempted by the much lower prices than those charged for prescription drugs by a legitimate pharmacy. "They are a sure sign of a fraudulent, illegal online pharmacy, and the medicines you are getting could be harmful," Jung says.
What are the risks of purchasing from a fake online pharmacy?
Buying prescription medicine from fraudulent online pharmacies can be dangerous, or even deadly. At best, counterfeit medicines are fakes of approved drugs and should be considered unsafe and ineffective. These medicines may be less effective or have unexpected side effects.
In addition to health risks, most fraudulent online pharmacies may put your personal and financial information at risk. Some intentionally misuse the information you provide. These sites may infect your computer with viruses, and they may sell your information to other illegal websites and Internet scams.
What are some of the warning signs of a fake online pharmacy?