FDA Needs Consumers’ Help to Rein-in Online Pharmacies
[Posted on: Thursday, September 21, 2017]
This week FDA issued 13 Warning Letters to online pharmacies selling prescription drugs without prescription, drugs long taken off the US market for safety reasons, and selling drugs that were never approved in the US. These Warning Letters cite hundreds of websites, mostly hosted from outside the US. It does not seem like FDA’s action affected these sites. Despite the Warning Letters, a quick review of these websites shows that most of these sites remain operational doing exactly what the FDA asked them not to do. One could buy prescription drugs, without a prescription, and get it shipped to any home in the US. Online pharmacies have long been the wild west of pharmaceutical marketing and are hard to regulate. In the end the best defense against such pharmacies are consumers and doctors. FDA should invest resources in educating consumers about the risk of buying drugs online and recruit doctors to educate their patients. Warning letters from FDA to online pharmacies have limited impact at best. Most of these pharmacies simply change their web addresses and continue in business. Their physical presence outside the US makes it harder to prosecute the offenders despite international efforts. So, FDA needs to do a lot more than issuing Warning Letters to these companies, and use its patient outreach resources more. Public campaigns by FDA educating consumers about the dangerous practices of the online pharmacies would potentially go a much longer way to curtail online pharmacies. In the end, with consumers trying to find cheaper drugs, it is hard battle for FDA particularly when the drugs available online have the same brand names and appearances and are shipped to US addresses via regular mail. FDA has to take the legal action of issuing Warning Letters but it needs to do more and quickly.