Foreign Fake Pharmacies Take Money From Teens, No Prescription Needed

A recent WUSA-9 story looked at the growing problem of American teens who are buying prescription medication online from foreign-based online pharmacies that demand neither proof of age nor prescription. The growing problem of fake online pharmacies is of particular concern for parents trying to protect their children from dangerous drugs and toxic fakes.

In their report, “Teens Getting Prescription Drugs Online” WUSA-9 surveyed the murky world of online drug transactions. The Digital Citizens Alliance discussed its investigations to find out the ease with which young people buy drugs online without prescriptions. Recording as a teen volunteer ordered dangerous prescription drugs from a foreign-based online pharmacy, reporter Jessica Doyle pointed out, “You heard that correctly. The operator says ‘If you do not have a prescription we provide the medication, no problem.’”

These pharmacies, which are not in the US, are breaking the Ryan Haight Act. The Ryan Haight Act attempts to protect Americans from the distribution of illicit substances over the internet. The act provides that, “No controlled substance that is a prescription drug as determined under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act may be delivered, distributed, or dispensed by means of the Internet without a valid prescription.”

The act is named after Ryan Haight, a teenager who died of an overdose of medication purchased without a prescription from an online source.

Tom Galvin of Digital Citizens Alliance explained, “What we learned in our investigation is that overseas pharmacies don’t really care if you have a prescription and they don’t really care how old you are. The main thing they want is either a credit card number of a Western Union payment so they can sell the drugs.”

John Horton of Legitscript, a non-profit dedicated to tracking down and identifying fake online pharmacies, warned, “It is disturbingly easy to find a rogue Internet pharmacy that will sell you a prescription. Research indicates that almost 97% of Internet pharmacies are not operating legitimately, and most of those do not require a prescription at all.”

Doyle estimated 40,000-50,000 fake Internet pharmacies are currently in business. Most of these fake online pharmacies operate overseas, devoid of FDA oversight or enforcement, with little opportunity for US law enforcement to shut them down.

In 2012, the FDA warned that counterfeit versions of Adderall, a legitimate treatment for ADHD as well as a popular medication for teen abuse, was being sold via fake Internet pharmacies. The counterfeit Adderall sold online posed an even more serious danger than the genuine drug: the fakes did not contain any of the genuine ingredients found in Adderall. Instead, they contained a dangerous pain killer, tramadol, along with acetaminophen. Tramadol is used to treat acute pain, and can have dangerous side effects, such as seizures and hallucinations.

You can protect yourself and your family from fake online pharmacies. Show your teens our Drug Safety Tips for Patients to help them understand the real dangers in buying drugs from a fake online pharmacy.

By S. Imber