The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Interpol are cracking down on online pharmacies for selling counterfeit or substandard medication, or selling drugs without appropriate safeguards. To date, 1,677 sites have been shut down and several others have received warnings. Fifty-eight people have been arrested and more than $41 million worth of illegal medications have been seized.
Many of these illegal pharmacies have names similar to legitimate pharmacies. For example, one of the online pharmacies the agencies have closed is Walgreens-Store.com, a play off of the legitimate Walgreens.com website.
Many of these sites advertise popular drugs such as Viagra and Celebrex. However, the drugs actually contain fake ingredients. The agencies say it is difficult to know how many deaths or serious reactions these errant medications have caused.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy recently assessed more than 10,000 websites for online pharmacies and found that 97 percent fell short of meeting state and federal guidelines, and 88 percent did not require a valid prescription. Nearly half of the pharmacies reviewed sold medications that had not been approved by the FDA.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy features an approved list of online pharmacies. If in doubt, consumers can verify the authenticity of a site first, if the website asks for a valid prescription, and secondly if they have a licensed pharmacist available for consultation. The pharmacy should also be located in the United States and licensed in the state where the website is registered.