Pain Tx in the News
Is that online pharmacy legitimate?
October 16, 2012
Help patients distinguish between legitimate—and rogue—online pharmacies by taking advantage of the FDA’s new BeSafeRx program.
To raise public awareness about the prevalence of fraudulent Internet pharmacies and to help patients make safe purchases, the US Food and Drug Administration has launched a national campaign called
BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy
The campaign provides online resources—including a database of licensed pharmacies—to help patients understand who they are buying their medications from online and to make sure that the drug they buy matches what you, their physician, has prescribed.
Such education is needed. According to an FDA survey, almost 1 in 4 Internet consumers has purchased prescription medication online; further, nearly 30% said they lacked confidence about how to make safe online purchases.
“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,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD. “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.
Who’s at greatest risk?
On the BeSafeRx Web site, the FDA indicates that the patients most likely to buy from an online pharmacy (and thus those who may be fooled by rogue pharmacies) include those who:
lack adequate prescription coverage
have a lower income—or are older—and who need long-term maintenance medicine
are seeking lifestyle medicines
are seeking financial assistance for prescription costs for themselves or a loved one
are accustomed to home delivery and have met their coverage limits.
To help protect patients, the FDA suggests that physicians and other health care professionals:
consider that patients may be using counterfeit or substandard medicines if they are not responding to treatment or are experiencing an unexpected adverse effect or new symptoms
ask patients where they intend to purchase their prescription medicines
discuss the risks and benefits of buying medicines online
provide samples, if available, to establish a baseline of the medicine’s characteristics
educate patients with BeSafeRx resources.
Simple ways to educate your patients
Teach patients to avoid Internet pharmacies that allow them to buy drugs without a clinician’s prescription, offer deep discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true, send spam or unsolicited e-mail offering cheap drugs, are located outside of the United States, or are not licensed in the United States.
Tell patients that legitimate online pharmacies will always require a doctor’s prescription, provide a physical US address and telephone number, offer to connect them with a pharmacist who can answer their questions, and have a license with the patient’s state board of pharmacy.
BeSafeRx resources include a pharmacy “checker”
Informative fact sheets, a patient discussion guide, and other resource templates are available for physician use at the
Patient resources are also available on
Especially useful is the “Know your online pharmacy” section, which provides a link to each state board of pharmacy’s license database. There, patients can investigate whether an online pharmacy is, in fact, licensed in the United States.
1. US Food and Drug Administration. BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy. Available at:
. Accessed October 15, 2012.
2. US Food and Drug Administration. BeSafeRx: Know your online pharmacy—survey highlights. Available at:
. Accessed October 16, 2012.
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