FDA launches BeSafeRx to educate public about buying medications online

APhA supports FDA campaign; vast majority of online drug sellers operate illegally


On September 28, FDA announced a national campaign, BeSafeRx—Know Your Online Pharmacy, to raise awareness about the high risk of buying medications from an illegal online drug seller and to help patients buy medications online safely.

Resources for patients and caregivers are available on FDA’s BeSafeRx website. These resources can help patients know the dangers of buying from sellers posing as pharmacies, identify a fake online pharmacy, and find a safe and legitimate online pharmacy. Such safe and legitimate online pharmacies require a valid prescription from a physician or other health professional, are located in the United States, have a licensed pharmacist available for consultation, and are licensed by the patient’s state board of pharmacy.

Pharmacists should be aware of the new campaign, which APhA supports. Pharmacists can share campaign resources with their patients and consider becoming a campaign supporter.

“We are encouraging pharmacists to join APhA in its support of FDA’s new public education campaign, BeSafeRx—Know Your Online Pharmacy,” said Jason Hansen, MS, JD, APhA Director of Health Policy. “Pharmacists are optimally positioned to share information with patients about FDA’s educational tool that helps consumers find a safe online pharmacy.”

A new FDA survey showed that almost one in four Internet users has purchased prescription medication online, according to the FDA news release. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reported that less than 3% of online drug sellers meet state and federal laws. Products purchased from these illegal online drug sellers may contain the wrong ingredients; the wrong amount of, or no, active ingredient; or other harmful ingredients.

FDA sees “a real need for this type of educational campaign to safeguard the public health,” Hansen said.

Signs that a patient may consider buying medications online include patients lacking adequate prescription coverage; lower-income and older patients needing long-term maintenance medications; patients seeking lifestyle medications; patients seeking help for prescription costs; and patients used to home delivery who have met their coverage limits, according to FDA’s BeSafeRx website.

To better protect patients, health professionals should consider potential counterfeit or substandard medications as an explanation for patients not responding to treatment or experiencing an unexpected side effect or new symptoms; discuss risks and benefits of buying medications online; educate patients with BeSafeRx resources; and more, according to the website.