FDA launches campaign against fake Internet pharmacies
The FDA is aiming to raise awareness about fake Internet pharmacies and the risk they pose to consumer health.
September 28th, 2012
12:16 PM ET

FDA launches campaign against fake Internet pharmacies

Buyers beware when it comes to buying medicine online, the Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers.  On Friday, the agency launched "BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy," a national campaign to raise awareness about fake Internet pharmacies and their potential risk to consumer health.

“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.  “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.”

The agency did a survey and found that about 1 in 4 consumers bought prescription drugs online.  Nearly 30% said they were not confident about buying drugs safely on the Internet.

In July, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy analyzed more than 10,000 websites and found 97% were not in compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws and were listed as "Not Recommended."

These products present a potential serious risk because they can contain too little or too much active ingredient, the wrong ingredients altogether or no active ingredient at all.  The agency is telling patients to only buy their prescription drugs through online pharmacies that:
–are located in the United States
–require a "valid" prescription from a doctor/health care professional
–provide a licensed pharmacist for consultation
–are licensed by the patient's state board of pharmacy.

soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. bear0402

    And require that the prescription be sold at an outrageous premium. No wonder more and more people are going to Canada to get their prescriptions.

    September 28, 2012 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GG

      Funny how we go to Canada for drugs and they come to the US for practically everything else. Canada is freakin expensive.

      September 28, 2012 at 14:10 | Report abuse |
    • Duffey

      You are on the spot with thus. This CNN articial must have been written by an American Pharmacist or their lobbiest.

      September 28, 2012 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  2. Scott B

    Awww, are people finding a way around the government's control of prescription drugs? Got to make sure doctors still get their money for visits just to get prescriptions they know they need.

    September 28, 2012 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TxPharm

      What, so we should just allow people to get one Rx refillable for life, never go back to the doctor? There's some good thinking.

      September 28, 2012 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
    • NotStupid

      The problem is that many of these sites aren't actually selling prescription drugs, just counterfeits that sometimes contain harmful stuff like anti-freeze. I know regulations can be pesky sometimes but it is nice to get what you actually pay for.

      September 28, 2012 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • yemen camel

      Why not? If I have the same disease for life, I'll only need a refill of the same medication. Of course, many people need to return to the doctor to have their condition and meds re-evaluated from time to time. But–taking myself as an example–I have asthma. I don't need to run to my allergist or pulmonologist every time I need a new inhaler (which reqires a prescription.)

      September 28, 2012 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
  3. Chito

    I call Bullsh!t on this! The FDA is always trying to find a means to block us from getting meds from a cheaper source. I've been using an int'l online pharmacy that provides me with affordable meds manufactured by the exact same pharmaceutical company at a FRACTION of the U.S. cost. Guess I have to stock up now...

    September 28, 2012 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • likmileftonescammers

      Provide specifics or you are just BS too.

      September 28, 2012 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
    • NikofTime

      I partially agree with you on the point that you can obtain the same prescription medications from international online pharmacies for a fraction of the price. However, there is a gamble that you have to consider. Is that a "real" pharmacy? Will your medications get through customs? It is a hit and miss chance. You have been fortunate but others have not been as lucky. The U.S. system is not perfect and it is very expensive and burdensome but "some" of these online pharmacies are much worse.

      September 28, 2012 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
    • mgibsongirl

      i agree. the govt just wants us to fatten the pockets of pharmacuetical companies in the US. getting drugs from canada and mexico is less expensive and are basically the same company!

      September 28, 2012 at 15:44 | Report abuse |
    • Chito

      likmileftonescammers: A BS'er I am not. Differin Gel for acne by Galderma: $250 w/ my crappy insurance plan at WALMART. FIVE DOLLARS at a pharm I'll call "ADC" . Look it all up for yourself.

      NikofTime, I must have been one of the lucky ones, as I have ordered from Mexican, Indian and New Zealand based pharmacies without any issues. My parcels xleared customs with no problem, but after reading this article, I'm stocking up big time!

      September 28, 2012 at 16:24 | Report abuse |
  4. My 2 cents

    This article is nothing but to protect the big drug makers!, I bought numerous prescriptions from online pharmacies especially from canada, they are 100% pure, better packaged, yes there are some scammers out there but so is the drug companies in US scamming people and insurance companies with their practices

    September 28, 2012 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CNN Reader

      How do you know that they are pure? Did you analyze them yourself? If so how?

      September 28, 2012 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
  5. steve

    the pharmacist tools of the pharmaceutical industry preemptively telling you to buy drugs "only in US". yea, so they cant gouge you with 1000% markups. everyone knows these guys are crooks in suits.
    *everyone* needs to know how easy it is to buy drugs in Mexico and Canada. SUPER EASY. you get the SAME product in the same packaging with fresh expiration dates for about *10 cents on the dollar*. noone in their right mind esp those on a fixed budget should buy here again for the majority of drugs esp uncommon ones.
    you can actually fly to whereever, go across the border and get what you need and fly home w/a years supply of perfectly good prescriptions and still come out money ahead.
    *another* example of how the W admin $creweD us in 2004 by preventing any company from buying perfectly good scrips outside the US for bargain basement prices. anyone who tells you different is lyin thru their teeth and a tool of big pharma.
    when you realize your health insurance costs could go down 10% if you simply were allowed to buy from say, Canadian pharmacies, it shoukld begin to hit home how the schtuping you 24/7/365.
    the ONLY defense for ":US" ie "overpriced" drugs is this; if you buy from a foreign pharmacy and have a bad reaction to a drug b/c its somehow adulterated, you should be prevented from suing the mfr simply b/c you bought it outside the US.

    September 28, 2012 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bozo

      Crestor in the u.s. $900 at target pharm. Crestor in canada? $129.00.. same potency, same count!

      September 28, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
  6. lindaluttrell

    I've been buying my scrips online for years now. Love the lower price and convenience! I could see how this could make people with lesser or no health coverage seek these companies out. You do get what you pay for and I fear that a lot of these companies may be no better than the local drug dealer on the street. I've heard equally good and bad about these. Hopefully, this will send a strong message to American drug companies and that some day prescription prices will drop. You can only pay for that R&D for so long...

    September 28, 2012 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ted

    "Nearly 30% said they were not confident about buying drugs safely on the Internet."

    30% SAID they weren't confident, so the FDA issues a warning.

    Note the lack of URL's to avoid, and hard facts about the products they sell.

    September 28, 2012 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ed H

    Don't fall for the FDA scare stories – many of the drugs from US companies are manufactured offshore, then imported into the US, just like the online pharmacies. I have been using an offshore online pharmacy for 4 years and no problems with either service or the drugs so far. My drug is made by Cipla – a very large generic drug maker in India.

    September 28, 2012 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. US_Euroguy

    This is a truly double-edged sword. On the one hand, many of the other commenters totally nailed it. Big Pharma is only a step below the Military/Industrial Complex, and Big Oil, in its utter monopoly and control within the States. And if you find a reputable online pharmacy that is selling -actual- prescriptions you CAN save a bundle by getting out from under the insane markup and cost of prescriptions in this tightly controlled industry. HOWEVER, as others have said you are gambling potentially with your life and health because there are many unscrupulous sites that may just sell you a sugar pill, and some that may sell you far more dangerous substances like drywall that you are ingesting. This is a situation of buyer beware for certain.

    September 28, 2012 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. rickp530

    I buy several medications from an online pharmacy out of Canada and I know that they sell legitimate product. How do I know this? One of the medications I buy is Plavix. It's for my heart. My doctor told me to never stop taking Plavix because if I did one or more of the four stents that I have in my heart would most likely collapse. A thirty day supply of Plavix in the United States cost a little over $300 and there is no generic. I can buy 100 pills, generic, at a cost of about $72. I have been taking these pills for three years and I'm still here.

    September 28, 2012 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Craig

      Actually, there is now a generic for Plavix called Clopidogrel. Just recently became available, and has saved me boatloads of money. I absolutely have to have this drug also to help prevent blood clots.

      September 28, 2012 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
  11. Paul C

    Make sure you are dealing with a real Canadian pharmacy. I live in Canada and at least once a week get spam from someone claiming to be a Canadian Pharmacy but their e-mail address traces back to Florida.

    September 28, 2012 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RxOwner

    As a small independent pharmacy owner, I can tell you that there are two reasons why drug costs are so high. First, drug companies have to recoup the cost of R&D. Second and most offensive are the Pharmacy Benefit Managers that provide the prescription drug coverage for many health plans. These companies make BILLIONS of dollars of profit providing this "service". Imagine how much your costs could go down if you were to eliminate the BILLIONS in profit plus the overhead costs associated with these companies.

    We strive to provide our patients with call-you-by-name service and are there to be a partner with them in their healthcare. Do those of you that buy online (or even mail-order for that matter) call the internet or mail-order pharmacist when you have drug questions? Do you feel like they have any interest in how you actually feel?

    September 28, 2012 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NikofTime

      I have much respect to the local community pharmacies especially the non-chain operations but before you condemn PBMs. Whom at your establishment will handle all of the claims that need to get processed? Who will handle all of the many formularies that each of your customers have? I guess the pharmacy technician will do all of these functions without going through a PBM or using a switch company. I'm sure there is a lot of blame to go around for high priced medications but the amount a PBM will get to process your claims is not the problem.

      September 28, 2012 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
    • Daniel Hines

      The old saw about the R&D costs is completely false. Much of the development of new medicines comes from taxpayer supported funds...also, virtually no prescription medicines are mfg. in the US, Much of the extended patent protection comes from Designer pills...and,if Pharma can't make money outside the US because of negotiated prices, lower prices (as much as 60 percent lower than the US), why does it continue to sell in such unprofitable markets? Visit my at http://rxforamericanhealth.blogspot.com.

      September 28, 2012 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
    • RxOwner

      The PBM's are indeed a big part of the cost of medications. Formularies have no health benefit for the patient and are only a vehicle for these companies to negotiate kickbacks with the manufactures. We have PBM's that provide lower copayments for brand name medications versus generic, even though the overall cost of the generic is much cheaper. Switching and other functions of the claim process are handled by other companies outside of the PBM.

      September 28, 2012 at 16:42 | Report abuse |
    • Kev in the P.B.

      I live in a small town in Tx and try to give as much of my business as possible to a one-on-one service type pharmacy; unfortunately, our "illustrious" governor (rick perry) chose to refuse the funds expanded Medicaid (a.k.a "ObamaCare") would have offered. This means that the HMO that took over administration of Med. funds is able to say "no" to a physician when a prescription does not meet their criteria (too expensive, even if it is the more effective choice). The pharmacist is powerless, the MD is powerless, and the patient is powerless (and sick/ill); the HMO gains power (gets richer). Its not right that big business (HMO/pharmaceutical companies) make money by refusing services (meds) to the ill & disabled, and it is also unfair/evil that the R/D departments of pharmaceutical companies can charge exploitative amounts of money for most drug products when the R/D was done HERE, in the USA. Why should drug companies be allowed to get away with this crap ?

      September 28, 2012 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
  13. GG

    The Federal Drug Agency wants to make sure that the US is collecting it's "Fair Share" of taxes on your drugs – that is why stuff is so expensive here. Someone has to pay for Obama care

    September 28, 2012 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NoMoreSecrets

      Would you please learn your acronyms before posting? Thanks for miseducating the public!

      September 28, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • no nothing

      wow is always Obama's fault with you?

      September 28, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • Cardiac50

      Yes.. because the high prices all started after they passed the Affordable Health care act..

      September 28, 2012 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
  14. kls817

    Is this news? I've known this for years. Four years ago I decided to save big bucks on some popular pharmaceutical (that had no generic equivalent) by buing online from what I thought was a Canadian pharmacy. I got the pills but they were were in a box with Chinese writing. I could see that the pills were a little different shape from the real pills I had purchased earlier.
    So I took pictures and logged a dispute with my credit card company (Amex) and got my money back.
    It turns out China is the world leader in counterfeit drugs but there are other countries involved. Don't order these drugs online.

    September 28, 2012 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dennis

      I get more phony drug offers from Russia than anywhere else in the world. I have health problems that require medications. I would never buy drugs on line! I value my life more than saving a few bucks and take a chance!

      September 28, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Irony here is most pharmaceuticals (80%) sold in the US are legally (FDA approved) manufactured outside the country mostly in SE Asia.

      September 28, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
    • ozzieme1

      some peoples comments here sound crazy they say they purchased a generic version of their medication offshore at a cheaper price and because it was in a packet from china and did not look the same it was fake, if it was a fake product you would think it would look the same. The reason many of these generic medications are made in china and india is because the gov. does not care about patents on pharmacy meds so companies just copy the drugs and make it it does not mean its a fake at all. For the guy that made a charge back on the credit card and got their money back it sound like you scammed the company did you send the meds back to the company ? I bet you just kept the meds and got the money back so the only real looser was the company that sold you pills that did not look the same as the american branded medication. I travel around the world I can tell you even if you purchase the same branded medication you can buy in the usa from say Greece it does not look the same.

      September 28, 2012 at 20:49 | Report abuse |
  15. Portland tony

    Just like purchasing anything. You pays yo money, you take yo chances?

    September 28, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. NoMoreSecrets

    Actually, there's a company in the U.S. which collects expired U.S. medications and repackages them for Mexico. And the media just doesn't promote stories of fraudulent drugs, there's the real crook (not the FDA, government, etc.). But hey, self-medication is probably the #1 thing in the U.S., look at our illegal drug problem!!!

    September 28, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Curmodgeon

    Of course we do nothing to curb the astronomical death toll caused by medical mistakes (missed diagnoses, improper drug choice or dosage, incompetent medical staff, equipment failure, etc.) in American hospitals and clinics, estimated at well over 100,000 per year.

    September 28, 2012 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. ironwolf56

    Do not attempt to buy your medications on your own terms, citizen! You will continue to use the vastly overpriced companies that fund our campaign chests. FDA...what a joke, possibly the most corrupt government agency of them all (and that's saying something!)

    September 28, 2012 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NoMoreSecrets

      You must have forgotten. It was President Obama, the guy YOU voted for, who cut a back door deal with the drug companies to maintain their prices in exchange for their support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (which people are and will discover is neither protective nor affordable).

      September 28, 2012 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
    • ironwolf56

      Uhhh....you made a HUGE assumption there buddy considering I did NOT vote for Obama. Way to knee jerk. Life ain't black and white and democrat and republican, there are, in fact, different choices and options; sadly 90% of Americans don't seem to get this so we stay in the two-party mess we're in.

      September 28, 2012 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
  19. orion7x

    The FDA and Pharmaceutical companies have no credibility. They are thieves and raping america just like the oil companies. They would say anything to get you to not buy cheap drugs. They lie about alternative medicines. I'm sure some of what they say is true but for the wrong reasons...

    September 28, 2012 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Texan

    I always though that online phrmacies were just sleazy operations selling viagra and pain medications that are made in a bathtub in Cambodia or just fake.

    September 28, 2012 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. PhilipD

    This stinks of pharmacutical lobbyists.

    September 28, 2012 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. kelly

    Sometimes those of us on the lower end of the financial scales just can't afford to get prescriptions in the U.S., or we can afford the drugs, but we can't afford the doctor visit to get the prescription written. Yes, there are risks of getting the wrong thing. These risks can be mitigated drastically by using an online pill identifier prior to taking the meds. Is it 100%? No, but a solid majority of fake medications manufacturers out there tend not to make exact duplicates to include imprint numbers, color, shape and texture. I use http://www.drugs.com/pill_identification.html and haven't been burned yet.

    September 28, 2012 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JCal

    Well, it's hard to listen to the FDA when they approve bad drugs, make drug companies take forever to get approval, and have really pathetic standards for generics. Given their finite resources, why doesn't the FDA stick to doing their job at hand. There are too many dangerous pharmaceuticals being marketed in the USA for the FDA to be worried about peripheral problems.

    September 28, 2012 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Ed

    I wonder if they are also going to tell Americans living and traveling abroad that they must have the doctors in that country send their perscriptions back to the US before they can be filled? Because if they don't, then that must mean that the prescriptions in that country are not really unsafe or there would be warning to all Americans everywhere not to "EVER" use any phamaceutial product not made in the USA..

    September 28, 2012 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. ozzieme1

    Who can trust the FDA they approve drugs that kill like Vioxx and even after they know it kills they still let drugs makes sell it to make a profit, the FDA is trying to stop companies selling natural supplements that have proven to help with health and have no or little chance of making anyone sick, its crazy the FDA says if you make drug like claims for a natural product like saying fish oil may help with heart health they they will fine you. I travel for a living and I need to purchase medication from many offshore or mexican style pharmacies as I just cant get access to meds I need I think the FDA should keep their nose out of the business of other countries as they don't control the world and they should stop putting the wind up people who want to purchase there meds offshore at a cheaper price and stop looking after their pharmacy making mates that keep them in business. The world is a crazy place too much regulation that does not really help protect people from large drug companies that are just trying to make a buck, makes me sad.

    September 28, 2012 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Miling

    If your in the UK make sure that the online pharmacy is registered and are display their registration number like http://www.clockworkpharmacy.com/ This is maybe some that should be consider in the US by the FSA.

    September 29, 2012 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Fifi

    I'm hearing a lot of mixed complaints about Rx manufacturers and also we need to look at the blatant greed of the pharmacys too. In the last month my pharmacy tripled the cost of 2 generic drugs. These were drugs on the market for more than 10 years. No warning to consumers, you just get to the register and are told a total with an added 50-60$, you ask why and they look at you and say well they raised these prices. You more or less are screwed because your getting a refill, are out and have to have these pills. So its the greed of a pharmacy. If i could find an online pharmacy in Canada I would use them.

    September 29, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sharkú

    Funny how they are so gung-ho about regulating drugs but absolutely refuse to do anything about illegal drugs.
    Yeah, who cares if someone gets rat poison in their heroin, cocaine, or marijuana? The prcks.

    October 1, 2012 at 00:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. PharmacyChecker

    FDA’s consumer information would be much more helpful in alerting consumers to the threats of dangerous online pharmacies if it were fully accurate. Sadly, some of its assertions contradict the facts about non-U.S. online pharmacies that sell the same prescription drugs to Americans sold here at a fraction of the cost. The big winners from FDA’s campaign are the pharmaceutical and U.S. pharmacy industries who don’t want to lose profits and consumers to lower priced pharmacies in other countries.

    The big losers of FDA’s online pharmacy campaign are American consumers and taxpayers. American consumers lose by having to pay much higher prices in U.S. pharmacies, or, tragically, by not taking their medication at all. In 2010, 48 million Americans did not fill a prescription due to high drug prices, according the Commonwealth Fund. This is a national health crisis. The taxpayers lose because when people end up getting sick by not taking needed medication they are more likely to end up in the ER, medical costs paid for by our dwindling national coffers (you and me).

    Empirical studies (see National Bureau of Economic Research: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17955.pdf) and over a decade of experience show the high degree of safety Americans can find in personally imported medication from online pharmacies which have been properly credentialed by PharmacyChecker.com, These online pharmacies require valid prescriptions, are dispensed by licensed pharmacists working in licensed pharmacies, and are mailed safely to the patient, all of which are verifiable.

    Remember, our Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department (in which the FDA is housed) – Kathleen Sebelius – operated her own drug importation program as Governor of Kansas. During her tenure, consumers could order prescription medication from pharmacies in the Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK found through the State of Kansas website. If it was safe then it is safe now. It appears that only the political calculation has changed in perverse deference to the big pharmaceutical companies.

    Tod Cooperman, MD and Gabriel Levitt

    October 1, 2012 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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    October 2, 2012 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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  32. tomsharwan

    Great advice . thanks for sharing with us .
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    November 19, 2012 at 00:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Mitch

    All the tin foil hats in this column's comment section are on a little too tightly.

    November 25, 2012 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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  36. Ed

    There are some good online pharmacies but bestdrugzcorner.com will take your money and not deliver, I placed an order five months ago and only got a few emails saying: “Any time now”. Be carful out there.

    March 8, 2013 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. shopeastwest

    Such kind of campaign is must, to bring awareness to the people about the fake internet pharmacies. It is really hard to find out which site is fake which one is original. Anyways thanks to the FDA.

    April 5, 2013 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply

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