America’s healthcare costs are skyrocketing, and many Americans look for ways to save, including turning to online pharmacies for cheaper prescription drugs. While there are legitimate online pharmacies, many are fraudulent. At best, they’ll take your money and fail to deliver the promised prescription. At worst, they could send you a drug that is counterfeit that may worsen your condition or even be fatal.
A recent survey of 12,000 online pharmacies found that 95 percent of them posed safety concerns to their customers. Media reports have circulated of drugs being laced with lethal doses of fentanyl. At Fraud.org, we have received numerous complaints of consumers paying for drugs online and never receiving them.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid counterfeit prescriptions whether you are purchasing online, or from your neighborhood pharmacy:
- Verify your online pharmacy. Before purchasing a drug online, go to the website safe.pharmacy to make sure your pharmacy is recommended. If it is not on the list, do not purchase drugs from that online pharmacy.
- Pay attention to the appearance of the drug and its packaging. If the appearance or coloring of the drug seems different from what you expected, or if the packaging appears to be tampered with, this is a red flag.
- Avoid pharmacies that do not require a prescription. If the pharmacy only requires you to fill out a questionnaire, the pharmacy is probably a seller of counterfeit drugs. Legitimate pharmacies will always require you to submit a prescription from a health care provider before they sell any medicine that requires a prescription.
- Make sure that the pharmacy has a licensed pharmacist available for consultations and provides you with contact information such as a physical street address. If a pharmacy does not offer these basic services, it is probably illegitimate.
- Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true. Regardless of whether you are getting your drugs online, at a neighborhood pharmacy, or in a provider’s office, be wary of drugs that are offered at a substantially lower than market-value price. Use drug price comparison tools like GoodRX.com to get an idea of what normal market prices are for a particular drug.
- Consult your doctor or pharmacist. If you think you may have used a counterfeit drug, consult a medical professional immediately even if you are not experiencing adverse symptoms. If you have a suspicion that you have received a drug that is a counterfeit, take it to your pharmacist. Pharmacists are trained to identify the appearance and packaging of legitimate medications.
There are many safe ways to save money on prescription drugs. You should never risk your health for a deal on prescription drugs. By following the above steps, and by spreading the word to your friends and family, you can keep yourself and your family safe from fraud and serious health risks associated with counterfeit medications. If you would like to learn more about counterfeit drugs, you can also check out Fraud.org’s new Fake Rx Action center!
If you think you have stumbled upon a counterfeit prescription drug, please report it by filing a complaint at Fraud.org via our secure online complaint form. We share complaints with our network of nearly 200 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who work to shut down illegal pharmacies, keep dangerous counterfeit drugs off the streets, and put fraudsters behind bars.