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Campaign Materials

FDA has developed a suite of materials including fact sheets, digital toolkits and videos to educate consumers about the dangers of buying medicines from fake online pharmacies. Visit the campaign materials page.

Survey Highlights

FDA conducted a nationwide web survey of more than 6,090 adult Internet consumers to understand the knowledge, attitudes and practices toward purchasing from online pharmacies. View survey highlights or check out the survey infographic (PDF - 282KB).

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the risks of purchasing from a fake online pharmacy?
  2. What are some of the warning signs of a fake online pharmacy?
  3. What are some tips to identify safe online pharmacies?
  4. Is it okay to buy prescription medicine online from other countries?
  5. Aren’t most online pharmacies safe and legal?
  6. Isn’t it obvious which online pharmacies are fake and which are legitimate?
  7. Why are consumers turning to online pharmacies for their medicines?

1. 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.

2. What are some of the warning signs of a fake online pharmacy?

Avoid online pharmacies that:

  1. Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription or by completing an online questionnaire
  2. Offer discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true
  3. Send unsolicited email or other spam offering cheap medicine
  4. Ship prescription drugs worldwide
  5. State that the drugs will be shipped from a foreign country
  6. Are located outside of the United States
  7. Are not licensed by a state board of pharmacy in the United States (or equivalent state health authority)

3. What are some tips to identify safe online pharmacies?

To identify a safe online pharmacy, make sure that the online pharmacy:

  1. Requires a valid prescription
  2. Provides a physical address in the United States
  3. Is licensed by the state board of pharmacy in your state and the state where the pharmacy is operating
  4. Has a state-licensed pharmacist to answer your question

4. Is it okay to buy prescription medicine online from other countries?

FDA does not have jurisdiction of prescription medication from other countries; therefore, FDA cannot guarantee the safety or effectiveness of those medication. Medicines approved in other countries may have slight variations, or different ingredients, that could cause you to develop a resistance to your medicine or result in a misdiagnosis by your doctor. If you take more than one medicine, these differences could also cancel out the effects of your medicines or cause harmful interactions. Additionally, many of these illegal pharmacies use fake “storefronts” to make consumers think they come from countries with high safety standards, but the medicines could have been made anywhere.

5. Aren’t most online pharmacies safe and legal?

No. Only 3 percent of online pharmacies reviewed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy are in compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws and practice standards.

6. Isn’t it obvious which online pharmacies are fake and which are legitimate?

No, it may not be obvious that an online pharmacy is fake. Many illegal online pharmacies use fake “storefronts” to make you think they are real pharmacies. Fraudulent sellers run fake online pharmacy scams to exploit American consumers by pretending to be legitimate pharmacies offering prescription medicines for sale. However, the products they provide may be fake, expired and otherwise unsafe. In fact, many online pharmacy scams are so sophisticated that even health care professionals can have a hard time detecting illegal sites at first glance

7. Why are consumers increasingly turning to online pharmacies for their medicines?

The Internet provides consumers with instant access to information and services, including online pharmacies for prescription medicines. Health insurance plans are encouraging home delivery of maintenance medications and use of pharmacy services online. As the cost of prescription medicine continues to increase, consumers may look for cost savings from online pharmacies to afford their medicines. In addition, many consumers value the convenience and privacy of purchasing their medicines online. For those consumers that may be considering purchasing from online sources that are not associated with health insurance plans or local pharmacy, these consumers need to know the risks of buying from fraudulent online pharmacies.


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Page Last Updated: 09/24/2013
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