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  1. Medication Health Fraud

Medication Health Fraud Questions and Answers

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Medication health fraud includes the marketing of medication products with unproven, false, or misleading claims about those products' ability to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent diseases or conditions. These medication health fraudulent products are often ineffective, waste consumers' money, and can pose serious risks. Medication health fraud can occur anywhere products are offered for sale, including online and at physical sales locations like stores, salons, or gas stations.

Health scammers prey on people's desire for quick and easy solutions to challenging health problems, such as Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, obesity, influenza, and other diseases. Medication health fraud products claiming to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent serious diseases may cause consumers to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm.

Questions and Answers

How can I protect myself?
To protect yourself from medication health fraud, it is important to be vigilant and learn how to identify scams when purchasing products. Some steps you can take include:

  • Familiarize yourself with examples of scams and learn how to spot medication health fraud. Look out for offers that claim the product can do it all, rely heavily on personal testimonials without credible evidence, or offer miracle cures.
  • Beware of products that claim to be unproven medication alternatives to FDA-approved drugs or have similar effects to prescription drugs.
  • Consider the risks of purchasing medicine over the internet or from other countries. It is essential to remain vigilant regardless of where you make your purchases. Remember that the presence of fraudulent products is not limited to specific locations or platforms.
  • Avoid over-the-counter medicines that lack the required drug facts label.
  • Consult with an FDA pharmacist about a product’s legitimacy and to inquire if the agency has taken action against it. Email FDA at druginfo@fda.hhs.gov or call 855-543-3784 or 301-796-3400.
  • Utilize the FDA's health fraud product database to search for a product's name and check for any violations. The absence of a product from the database does not guarantee its safety.
  • Report a website if you think it is engaged in medication health fraud. A report alerts FDA to potentially unlawful sales and could help the agency prevent others from falling victim to health fraud.
  • Discuss all the products you are taking and your medical conditions with your healthcare provider.

Which products has FDA identified as presenting potential health fraud violations?

The FDA maintains a health fraud product database that includes over 1,000 unapproved products with violations related to health fraud. However, this database represents only a small fraction of the potentially hazardous products on the market. The absence of a product from the database does not guarantee its safety.

Where are medication health fraud products sold?

Medication health fraud products may be offered for sale through various channels, including the internet, large online marketplaces, social media, small stores, and mail.

Medication health fraud products can be found in a wide range of places, making it even more challenging to identify and avoid them. They can be found at retail stores such as gas stations, salons, spas, pharmacies, grocery stores, and dietary supplement stores.

It is essential to remain vigilant regardless of where you make your purchases. Remember that the presence of medication fraud products is not limited to specific locations or platforms.

When seeking to safely purchase prescription drugs over the internet, see FDA’s BeSafeRx campaign.

Where do medication health fraud products come from?

Medication health fraud products can originate from various locations both within the United States and worldwide. Many of these products are smuggled or shipped through international mail. To avoid detection, they are often falsely declared to customs as different items, such as research chemicals, tea, or handbags.

Medication health fraud products often have intricate supply chains involving distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. The network of individuals and businesses involved in distributing these products is diffuse, fragmented, and challenging to track. Many of them are not registered with the FDA and can operate out of residential settings.

Does the agency receive reports of injury or unexpected problems from medication health fraud products?

Yes. For example, FDA learned that more than more than 30 consumers have experienced a serious health effect after using medication health fraud products with “Artri” or “Ortiga” in the product name, some of which testing showed contained active ingredients not listed on the product label. Reported harmful effects include sudden weight gain, serious gastrointestinal damage including bleeding and ulceration, increased blood glucose (sugar) levels, adrenal dysfunction, liver toxicity, and other serious conditions. Some of these problems can be life threatening or fatal.

The agency believes that adverse events for medication health fraud products are underreported. Various factors contribute to underreporting, including manufacturers of some unapproved products being less likely to report to FDA, individuals not attributing their symptoms to the product, embarrassment in discussing product usage with healthcare providers, or lack of awareness about the option to notify FDA of adverse events and other safety concerns. The FDA encourages healthcare providers and consumers to report problems with fraudulent products to the agency. Active involvement in reporting problems to the FDA can make a difference.

Report a Problem

Report a Problem to FDA

Report adverse reactions or other problems with drug products. Consumers can play an important public health role by reporting to FDA any adverse reactions or other problems with drug products.

MedWatch: The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program

FDA’s medical product safety reporting program for health professionals, patients and consumers.

 
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