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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Safety

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Warning About Counterfeit Drugs From Multiple Internet Sellers

Audience: Consumers, healthcare professionals

[UPDATE 11/02/2007] A year-long investigation by FDA suggests that consumers may be buying drugs online to avoid the need for a prescription from their physician. FDA sampling of imported drugs also indicates that consumers continue to spend money unnecessarily on potentially risky drug products bought over the internet. FDA urges consumers to beware of unregulated internet drug sellers, because many of their products might not contain the correct ingredients and could contain toxic substances.

[Posted 05/01/2007] FDA informed consumers and healthcare professionals regarding the dangers associated with buying prescription drugs over the internet. FDA received information showing that 24 apparently related websites may be involved in the distribution of counterfeit prescription drugs. The websites appear to be operated from outside the United States.

On three occasions during recent months, consumers obtained counterfeit versions of Xenical 120mg Capsules, a drug used to help obese individuals who meet certain weight and height requirements to lose weight and maintain weight loss, from two different websites. Instead of receiving Xenical, a product manufactured by Hoffmann-LaRoche, consumers received sibutramine, the active ingredient in Meridia. Although Meridia is also used to help individuals lose weight and maintain weight loss, the drug should not be used in certain patient populations and is not a substitute for other weight loss products. Consumers should be wary if there is no way to contact the website pharmacy by phone, if prices are dramatically lower than the competition, or if a prescription from their doctor is not required. Additionally, consumers are urged to review the FDA web page at www.fda.gov/buyonline for additional information prior to making purchases of prescription drugs over the internet. See the FDA press release for the list of the 24 web sites that may be involved in the distribution of counterfeit prescription drugs.

[November 01, 2007 - Press Release - FDA]
[May 01, 2007 - Press Release - FDA]