U.S. flag An official website of the United States government
  1. Home
  2. Drugs
  3. Resources | Drugs
  4. Information for Consumers and Patients | Drugs
  5. Buying & Using Medicine Safely
  6. Counterfeit Medicine
  1. Buying & Using Medicine Safely

Counterfeit Medicine

Counterfeit Medicine May Be Harmful

Report a counterfeit drug to FDA

Counterfeit (fake or falsified) medicines may be harmful to your health because while being passed off as authentic, may contain the wrong ingredients, contain too much, too little or no active ingredient at all or contain other harmful ingredients.

The U.S. drug supply is among the safest in the world. The U.S. has federal and state laws that create a “closed” drug distribution system to help ensure the U.S. drug supply is safe. FDA remains vigilant in protecting the U.S. drug supply from counterfeits drugs.

However, there has been an increase in overdose deaths that are related to fentanyl-laced counterfeit drugs. Visit Overdose Prevention Framework and CDC’s Drug Overdose Deaths with Evidence of Counterfeit Pill Use for more information.

FDA takes reports of suspect counterfeits seriously and works closely with other federal agencies and the private sector to help protect the nation's drug supply.

Possible Signs of Counterfeit Drugs

Health care providers and consumers need to be aware of how they could be exposed to counterfeit medicines. Watch out for possible signs of a counterfeit drug:

  • Does the drug or packaging look different than what you normally receive?
  • Have you experienced a new or unusual side effect after using the drug?
  • Did you buy the drug from an online pharmacy?

Consumers, health care providers and supply chain stakeholders should only buy from state-licensed pharmacies to ensure you are getting safe, effective and high-quality drugs that have been approved by FDA.

Visit BeSafeRx for more information about the potential dangers of buying medicine from online pharmacies.

Reports of Counterfeit Drugs

Companies report counterfeit drugs to FDA, and the agency provides this information to consumers:

Report Suspected Unsafe Products to FDA

Global Perspective

Many counterfeit drugs are made abroad and arrive in the U.S. through the mail or are smuggled into the country. FDA works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and focuses on areas that present the most substantial threat to our drug supply.

Drug safety and quality do not begin or end at the U.S. border. The U.S. government works with foreign regulatory counterparts, when possible, to disrupt or close illegal operations involving the production and distribution of counterfeit drugs. 

Visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s counterfeit medicines for helpful safety tips when traveling abroad.

FDA Actions to Protect Against Counterfeit Drugs

  • Works with industry and stakeholders to create a tighter, closed prescription drug distribution system to prevent harmful drugs from entering the supply chain, detect harmful drugs if they do enter the supply chain, and enable rapid response when such drugs are found.
  • Electronically screens all FDA-regulated drugs imported into the U.S. to ensure imported drugs must meet FDA’s rigorous standards for quality, safety and effectiveness as drugs made in the U.S. 
  • FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations conducts criminal investigations of illegal activities involving FDA-regulated products, arresting those responsible and bringing them before the Department of Justice for prosecution. This includes activities such as cybercrime and distributing counterfeit, unapproved and misbranded drugs. 

Related Information


Back to Top