September 28, 2012 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a new website to raise public awareness about the dangers of online pharmacies, BeSafeRx (http://www.fda.gov/BeSafeRx). The FDA is concerned that unlicensed pharmacies, often located outside the United States, could be selling counterfeit, contaminated, expired drugs that have the wrong amount of active ingredients or no active ingredients. The FDA is warning that these products could cause serious injury or death.
A review conducted by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found that just 3% of online pharmacies that were reviewed appeared to conform to state and federal regulatory laws. They found that many of these online pharmacies used deceptive marketing tactics to appear trustworthy and legitimate.
A survey conducted by the FDA found that 29% of internet users were not sure how to safely buy prescription drugs online, but 20% said they buy drugs on online pharmacies.
The biggest danger is that a person may accidentally buy a drug that does not treat a serious disease, causes the disease to get worse, interacts with another medication, or causes a deadly complication.
The FDA warns to beware of online pharmacies that:
- Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription from your doctor
- Offer major discounts or prices that are “too good to be true”
- Send spam or unsolicited emails advertising drugs
- Are not located within the United States
- Are not licensed in the United States
Safe online pharmacies should require a prescription from a doctor, provide a physical address and telephone number in the United States, offer a licensed pharmacist to answer questions, and have a license with your state’s board of pharmacy.
The FDA also warned about the risk of putting personal financial information in the hands of rogue individuals. Many of these websites lack safeguards to protect credit card information and personal data (home address, telephone number, etc.), and this information could be sold to third-party websites at a profit. The FDA warns that these companies may harass customers with repeated emails, phone calls, or credit card charges for products that were never ordered or received.
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