Be Wary of Online Pharmacies, FDA Warns

It’s tempting to save money by purchasing from an online pharmacy, but federal health officials warn that consumers could be risking their health or the well-being of someone else.

In a recent FDA survey, nearly one in four Internet consumers has bought prescription medicine online. The chances of buying medications from a rogue pharmacy are high, according to a news release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reports that fewer 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 Dr. Margaret Hamburg in the release. “Fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies often offer deeply discounted products. If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are.”

To help people understand the risks of using online pharmacies, the FDA has launched a public education campaign BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy.

“FDA’s BeSafeRx campaign is designed to help patients learn how to avoid these risks,” Hamburg said.

Medications that are purchased from fraudulent online pharmacies may not contain an active ingredient. Or, they could contain too little or too much of the active ingredient. It’s possible they could be expired medications or contaminated.

The FDA recommends consumers should only buy prescription medicine through 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.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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