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FDA Cracking Down on Dangerous Online Pharmacies

Patients who buy medicines from online pharmacies may be putting their health at risk because the drugs may be counterfeit, contaminated, expired or otherwise unsafe. To raise awareness of the dangers of purchasing drug on the Internet, the Food and Drug Administration has launched a new national campaign aimed to help patients identify legitimate online pharmacies.

Unfortunately, the risk of purchasing from a fraudulent pharmacy is quite high. In fact, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found that less than 3 percent of online pharmacies meet state and federal laws. In addition, these websites work hard to look legitimate, using sophisticated marketing efforts or fake web storefronts.

The FDA’s new campaign, BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy, highlights the risks of fake online pharmacies. For instance, medications sold by online pharmacies may contain the wrong ingredients, contain the incorrect mix of active ingredient or none at all, or include potentially harmful substances. In addition, drugs that may be approved in other countries or produced by unknown sources may have slight variations that could worsen your condition or cause harmful interactions.

Of course, not all online pharmacies are unsafe. The FDA campaign also offers advice for patients on how to identify a safe, legal online pharmacy. Below are a few hallmarks of a legitimate operation:

  • Always require a doctor’s prescription
  • Provide a physical address and telephone number in the United States
  • Offer a pharmacist to answer your questions
  • Have a license with your state board of pharmacy.