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FDA launches ‘BeSafeRx’ campaign against fake pharmacies

If the very idea of an online pharmacy is something that makes you just a little bit suspicious – Not just in terms of “I have no idea where these drugs are coming from, what they are, or any sense of quality control over this entire operation,” but also a basic question of whether or not you’ll ever get what you’ve paid for – then help is on the way in the form of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA today announced a new national campaign called “BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy,” which aims to “raise awareness of the dangers of buying prescription medicines from fake online pharmacies.” The campaign comes months after the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy looked into 10,000 websites and discovered that a staggering 97 percent were not in compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws, marking them as “Not Recommended” for fear of being sold drugs that are unsafe.

Talking about the campaign, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg explained to CNN that “Buying medicines from rogue online pharmacies can be risky because they may sell fake, expired, contaminated, not approved by FDA, or otherwise unsafe products that are dangerous to patients. Fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies often offer deeply discounted products.  If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are. FDA’s BeSafeRx campaign is designed to help patients learn how to avoid these risks.”

The campaign is targeted at “consumers who have or who would consider purchasing prescription medicines from an online pharmacy that is not associated with a health insurance plan or local ‘brick and mortar’ pharmacy to save money or for convenience,” according to the FDA, noting that said customers “may not have health insurance, may have recently lost their health insurance coverage or may have reached their coverage limits for prescription medications,” in addition to potentially being responsible for loved ones dependent on medicine that they cannot afford. “Whatever the situation,” the campaign’s website explains, “BeSafeRx’s goal is to provide important information to consumers so that they can make informed decisions to safely purchase medicines online.”

According to FDA statistics, 1 in 4 consumers have bought prescription drugs online, with nearly 30 percent of those asked admitting that they were not confident about the safety of the practice. As part of the BeSafeRx campaign, consumers will be advised to only purchase from online pharmacies that follow the basic guidelines of being located within the United States, require a prescription from a doctor or healthcare professional before release of medication, are able to provide a licensed pharmacist for consultation if requested, and are licensed by the patient’s state board of pharmacy.

Or, if all else fails, there’s always the possibility of just telling people to find out where their local Walgreens is, and go there, instead.