Bryan A. Liang, MD, PhD, JD

Why buy from a store when you can shop on the Internet?  Unfortunately, there are numerous illegal Web sites that will sell you contaminated or counterfeit drugs, unapproved products, the wrong product, or simply take your money and never deliver anything in return.

The situation is very much “buyer beware.” Patients can protect themselves by looking for suspicious characteristics that indicate thee “online pharmacies” may be selling illicit or counterfeit drugs. For example:

The site does not have a physical address or telephone number is listed.

The site does not have a licensed pharmacist available to answer questions.

There is no way to talk to a person if problems arise regarding suspect contraband or counterfeit medication.

The site does not ask for the name, address, or phone number of your current doctor.

The site does not require that a valid prescription issued by a physician be provided before filling the order.

The site offers to sell drugs without a prescription or only requires a buyer to fill out a questionnaire to receive drugs.

The site does not accept any insurance and requires that all payments be made with a credit card.

The site requires that you waive some rights before sending the drugs.

The site “advises” consumers about drug importation laws and why it is “permissible” to obtain prescription drugs from foreign countries via the Internet.

The site encourages buyers to have the drugs sent to post office boxes.

If you suspect a Web site is making illegal online drug sales or selling counterfeit drugs, report it to the FDA by sending an email to a webcomplaints@ora.fda.gov. This is just one of the 10 ways the Partnership for Safe Medicines recommends you can fight counterfeit drugs. Visit SafeMedicines.org to learn more about how you can help combat counterfeit drugs.