The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a national campaign to alert consumers that buying from fake online pharmacies can be dangerous, or even deadly. Less than 3 percent of online pharmacies meet state and federal laws, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. That means for the vast majority of online pharmacies, consumers don’t know what they’re getting—and that’s risky.

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Drugs bought from fake pharmacies could be contaminated or contain harmful ingredients. In addition, their web sites may not protect your personal or financial information, such as your credit card number. That puts you in harm's way.

To help consumers, the FDA has launched BeSafeRx, a web site that offers resources on spotting unsafe online pharmacies. Here are some of its tips:

5 Signs of a FAKE Online Pharmacy

  1. Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription from your doctor
  2. Offer deep discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true
  3. Send spam or unsolicited email offering cheap drugs
  4. Are located outside of the United States
  5. Are not licensed in the United States

Tips for Identifying SAFE Online Pharmacies

  • Always require a doctor’s prescription
  • Provide a physical address and telephone number in the United States
  • Offer a pharmacist to answer your questions
  • Have a license with your state board of pharmacy. Check it now with the FDA’s lookup tool.

Online Pharmacy Safety

To keep you and your family safe, don't buy your medications online unless you can verify that the site is legitimate. A professional looking web site is NO guarantee that the site is safe.

In June 2015, the FDA, in partnership with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies, took action against more than 1,000 websites selling potentially dangerous and unapproved medications and medical devices in a program called Operation Pangea VIII. Actions included regulatory warnings, as well as the seizing of illegal drugs (e.g., antidepressants, hormone replacement therapies, sleep aids, etc.) and other products (e.g., derma fillers, colon care systems).

Updated by Remedy Health Media



Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 02 Oct 2012

Last Modified: 30 Jun 2015