health

FDA educates doctors and patients about risks of online pharmacies

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 15, 2012

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The Food and Drug Administration launched a national campaign on Sept. 28 to raise awareness about the prevalence of fraudulent Internet pharmacies, which can be dangerous to patient health. The initiative, BeSafeRx — Know Your Online Pharmacy, offers educational information for health professionals, patients and caregivers about the risks of buying prescription drugs online and tips on how to do it safely.

About one in four Americans who shops online has purchased prescription medication on the Internet. Yet nearly 30% of these individuals report lacking confidence about how to make such online purchases safely, the FDA said.

The risk of consumers unknowingly buying dangerous prescription drugs on the Internet is high, considering that fewer than 3% of online pharmacies meet state and federal laws, according to the National Assn. of Boards of Pharmacy. Potential dangers include purchasing drugs that are expired, fake or contaminated, the FDA said.

An FDA website recommends that physicians ask patients where they intend to purchase their medications and discuss the risks and benefits of buying prescription drugs online (link).

Between Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, the FDA participated in the fifth annual International Internet Week of Action, during which international regulatory and law enforcement agencies aim to stop the online sale and distribution of counterfeit and illegal medical products. This year’s effort, Operation Pangea V, resulted in the shutdown of more than 18,000 illegal pharmacy websites and the seizure of about $10.5 million worth of pharmaceuticals worldwide.

The FDA alone took action against more than 4,100 Internet pharmacies that illegally sell potentially dangerous, unapproved drugs. The actions taken include civil and criminal charges, seizure of illegal products and removal of the offending websites.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/10/15/hlbf1015.htm.

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