The uphill fight against fake prescription drugs

The issue of counterfeit prescription medicine is a growing problem, attracting the attention of law enforcement organizations and pharmaceutical companies. FDA in June convened a meeting around the problem of illegal opioids sold online and through social media.

The issue of counterfeit prescription medicine is a growing problem, attracting the attention of law enforcement organizations and pharmaceutical companies. FDA in June convened a meeting around the problem of illegal opioids sold online and through social media. In a survey conducted last year by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global), 55% of U.S. consumers said they have or would consider purchasing medicine online, notes Libby Baney, a senior adviser to the nonprofit. "The biggest danger is that these sites do not require a medical examination or a prescription, and the sites do not impose limitations on how much or how often the consumer purchases drugs," says Alex Khu, assistant director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Global Trade Investigations division. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) reviewed nearly 12,000 internet outlets selling medicine to U.S. patients. Of these, about 95% were found noncompliant with state and federal laws and NABP standards, according to a report published in September, which highlighted the role social media sites play. The ASOP Global survey also found that more than 80% of doctors do not talk to patients about where they get their medicine. If a patient tells her doctor her medication is not working, a doctor unaware that she bought the product from a questionable source could mistakenly prescribe a higher dose or different product.