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Consumer Protection Group Warns Against Online Swine Flu Treatments

Partnership for Safe Medicines cautions consumers against counterfeit influenza drugs

WASHINGTON—The Partnership for Safe Medicines, a group of organizations and individuals dedicated to protect consumers from counterfeit medicines, issued the following statement regarding the treatments for the A/H1N1 swine influenza.

In light of the international swine influenza outbreak, pharmacists and consumers need to be wary of online drug sellers who have already seized the opportunity to distribute counterfeit anti-influenza drugs, such as Tamiflu and Relenza. 

The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) reminds consumers that anti-influenza drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza require a prescription from a healthcare professional and should only be purchased from a licensed pharmacy.  Patients filling prescriptions online should exclusively buy from online pharmacies with Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) accreditation from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Online pharmacies may not be legitimate if they show the following signs:

  • Does not require a valid prescription issued by a healthcare practitioner
  • Offers to sell prescriptions or only requires patients to fill out a questionnaire to receive a prescription
  • No physical address or telephone number is listed on the Web site
  • Does not participate in any insurance plans and requires that all payments be made with a credit card
  • Does not have a licensed pharmacist available to answer questions
  • Does not have any way to talk to a person if problems are encountered
  • Does not ask for the name, address, or phone number of a current doctor
  • Requires a waiver be signed prior to distribution
  • Advises on drug importation laws and why it is permissible to obtain prescription drugs from foreign countries via the Internet
  • Encourages customers have the drugs sent to post office boxes or other locations to avoid detection by U.S. authorities

Pharmacists also need to use caution when ordering anti-influenza drugs during this outbreak.  PSM advises pharmacists to carefully screen drug vendors and unsolicited sales offers in order to protect their customers from counterfeit drugs.  Pharmacists should decline sales offers that do not provide a listed physical address or phone number, promise the availability of a drug during a shortage or offer generic forms of drugs when none have been approved by the FDA.  Similarly, pharmacists should never purchase medications from a vendor that does not have a wholesale license from the state licensing authority, wants payments in cash only, refuses to divulge information about the product – like its source, pedigree, expiration date or lot number, or offers a price that is unusually low.

PSM offers free, online resources for consumers and pharmacists, such as the Consumer Resources kit and the L.E.A.D.E.R.’s Guide, to help ensure the safety of their prescription drugs and minimize their risk of getting a counterfeit drug.  For more information, visit www.safemedicines.org.

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About the Partnerships for Safe Medicines
The Partnership for Safe Medicines is a group of organizations and individuals that have policies, procedures, or programs to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband medicines.  To join us in our stand against counterfeit drugs or obtain your own copy of the Principles for Drug Safety doctrine, please visit www.SafeMedicines.org.

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