FDA warns of online pharmacies

Feds warn online pharmacy customers need to protect themselves

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DETROIT - The Food and Drug Administration says more and more people are ordering medications online, and is warning them to take precautions to make sure they don't put their health at risk.

An FDA survey found a quarter of people who make online purchases have also ordered prescription drugs over the Internet.

While online ordering can be convenient and sometimes less expensive, it does come with an amount of risk.

"You might get a product that's counterfeit, that's substandard and doesn't have all of the active pharmaceutical ingredient that you need. You might get a product that's expired and won't work the way it should. You might get a product that's contaminated." said Margaret Hamburg, an FDA commissioner.

Why bogus sites can't be stopped

The FDA also says a recent review of online pharmacies found only three percent follow state and federal laws. You might think the FDA and police could crack down on sites that are not following the rules, but that can be very difficult.

"Someone described it as playing whack-a-mole because you can go after an illegitimate online site, but they can go off one day and reappear with a slightly different name, and a different website address, and start selling the same products," added Margaret Hamburg, and FDA Commissioner.

Protect yourself

Because it's so easy for bogus sites to appear and reappear, here are some steps to take to protect yourself.

*Make sure your online pharmacy requires a prescription
*Find out if there's a pharmacist you can speak with by phone
*Find out if the company based in the United States
*Make sure it is licensed with your state board of pharmacy.

The FDA has set up a website to check out online pharmacies.

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