FDA Shuts Down Illegal Pharmacies

Box of Pills

Most of us have been subject to spam selling everything from Viagra to baldness cures, many of them sold under the guise of “Canadian pharmacies”.  These fraudulent online pharmacies pose a real risk to our health when they promote and sell illegally made drugs and market them as FDA approved.

The FDA recently announced that it has shut down over 9,600 websites, mostly online pharmacies, that sell these illegal drugs, and they seized over $41 million dollars worth of illegal medicines. According to an FDA press announcement dated June 27, 2013, “These websites displayed fake licenses and certifications to convince U.S. consumers to purchase drugs they advertised as “brand name” and “FDA approved.” The drugs received as part of Operation Pangea were not from Canada, and were neither brand name nor FDA approved. These websites also used certain major U.S. pharmacy retailer names to trick U.S. consumers into believing an affiliation existed with these retailers”.

So how can you tell if the online pharmacy you’re dealing with is legitimate?

Go with a well-known brand. It’s o.k. to shop around for the best price, but be sure you’re dealing with well known pharmacies, and pay attention to the URL. For example, one of the sites shut down by the FDA was www.walgreens-store.com. A quick search for Walgreens would let you know that their website URL is www.walgreens.com, and does not contain the word “store”.

Use a prescription. As with a brick and mortar pharmacy, no prescription medication request should be filled without a written prescription from a doctor. If the online pharmacy you’re dealing with doesn’t require a prescription, that’s a red flag that you’re dealing with an illegitimate site.

Verify the pharmacy. The FDA can help you determine if the site you’re considering is legitimate with their online tool “BeSafeRX”.

Learn more about the risk of online pharmacies, and how to safely purchase medicines online, in our recent article “Are Online Pharmacies Safe?”.