BeSafeRx: FDA Helping Consumers Avoid Risks of Online Prescription Drug Purchases

By: Ilisa Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D.

As a pharmacist who cares about patients’ individual medication needs, I am delighted to share my thoughts on FDA’s latest effort to protect patients from fraudulent, illegal online pharmacies. We’ve just launched BeSafeRx – Know Your Online Pharmacy, a national campaign to educate consumers about the risks of buying prescription medications over the Internet.

Ilisa Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D.It’s troubling to hear that some patients don’t recognize the need to carefully select where they buy their prescription medicines, or that the “pharmacy” they’re buying from might not actually be a pharmacy at all. Too often it seems that it has become second nature for many consumers to buy clothes, electronics or even medicines on the Internet. But the reality is that purchasing drugs from Internet sources that are not known to be reliable is a risky business, and today, with the sale of counterfeit drugs escalating worldwide, perhaps riskier than ever.

How risky? According to a recent FDA survey, nearly one in four of the surveyed Internet users reported having purchased prescription medicine online. This fact alone is not surprising, considering that many people, especially those with prescription drug insurance, use the Internet to get their prescriptions safely filled from legitimate and reputable pharmacies. Unfortunately, in many other cases—far more than we’d like to see—consumers are surfing the Web for cheaper or more convenient sources. Our survey showed that about 29 percent of survey participants said they were unsure about how to safely purchase medicine online. Why is this important? Because, according to reviews by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), less than 3 percent of online pharmacies comply with U.S laws and NABP practice standards, making it critically important for online consumers to understand how to recognize fraudulent, illegal online pharmacies and how to identify a safe, legal online pharmacy.

That’s why I’m so excited about the BeSafe Rx campaign! We’re providing consumers with practical and useful tools to help them make informed decisions about their online purchases. All this useful information is just a click away

When I was in pharmacy practice I wanted nothing but the best for my patients, and now, as a pharmacist with FDA, I want nothing but the best for the American public. BeSafe Rx helps FDA protect public health, and I’m proud to be a part of it. So be safe, and make sure you know your online pharmacy!

Ilisa B.G. Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D., is the Director (Acting), Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research