On Friday, FDA launched a new national campaign -- called BeSafeRx -- and an accompanying website to educate U.S. residents about the prevalence of fraudulent online pharmacies that sell counterfeit medications that could be harmful or fatal, the AP/Boston Globe reports.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the new campaign's goal is to "increase awareness" and encourage individuals to "use appropriate [online] pharmacies."
The initiative -- which involves the collaboration of several federal agencies and departments -- was developed amid growing evidence that consumers increasingly are shopping for their medications online in an effort to save time and costs.
However, many of the drugs disbursed by pharmacies have been found to have numerous defects. For example, they might be:
- Contain no active ingredient; or
- Include the wrong amount of an active ingredient.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which represents state pharmacy boards, said it found that just 3% of the thousands of online pharmacies it reviewed follow state and federal laws.
Details of the Website
The campaign's website, FDA.gov/BeSafeRx, provides consumers with a list of the few dozen pharmacies that it has verified as legitimate and following the rules, such as requiring a valid doctor's prescription for medicine and having licensed pharmacists available to answer questions.
The site also offers tips on how to identify illegal pharmacies, links to state databases of licensed pharmacies and explanations of the dangers of using rogue online pharmacies.
In addition to sending fake drugs to consumers, illegal online pharmacies could:
- Infect consumers' computers with viruses;
- Sell consumers' personal or financial data to other rogue websites; or
- Charge consumers for products they never ordered or received (Johnson, AP/Boston Globe, 9/28).