Beware of Fake Flu Products, Says FDA

Pharmacists are easy to find in person or online, and are always helpful

woman on line at a coffee shop, buying

The 2018 flu season appears to have peaked, and is trending down, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Which is good news.

But, consumers should still be careful when considering to purchase flu-prevention products.

The old saying is, ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

This means, if you have a flu medicine question, it's always best to ask your local pharmacist. They are one of America’s most trusted healthcare providers.

This year’s severe flu season raises new concerns about the potential for consumers to be lured into buying unproven flu treatments, and even worse, buying counterfeit antivirals online from websites that appear to be legitimate online pharmacies.

As part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ongoing efforts to protect consumers from health fraud, the agency is reminding consumers to be wary of unapproved products claiming to prevent, treat or cure influenza, or flu.

However, there are numerous unsafe products that continue to be sold directly to consumers.

Online pharmacies present another opportunity for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.

Legitimate online pharmacies do exist.

Moreover, pharmacists are easy to find, in person or online, and they are always helpful.

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The FDA recommends consumers buy prescription drugs from their local pharmacy or only through an online pharmacy that requires a valid prescription from an authorized healthcare professional, such as a pharmacist, nurse or doctor.

The FDA advises consumers to beware of online pharmacies that:

  • allow you to buy prescription medicine without a prescription from your healthcare provider;
  • do not have a U.S. state-licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions;
  • offer very low prices that seem too good to be true; or
  • are located outside of the U.S. or ship worldwide.

These pharmacies often sell medicines that can be dangerous because they may:

  • have too much or too little of the active ingredient you need to treat your disease or condition;
  • not contain the right active ingredient; or
  • contain wrong or other harmful ingredients.

“This year the flu has been widespread, impacting millions of patients across the country, and leading to a new record number of flu-related hospitalizations,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

“We understand the toll this year’s flu season has taken on peoples’ lives.”

“The FDA is warning consumers to be alert, and try and steer clear of fraudulent flu products, which may be found online or in retail stores. We’re advising consumers on some of the telltale signs to look for when trying to spot flu products that may be fraudulent.”

“Consumers should be aware that there are no legally marketed over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to prevent or cure the flu,” said Dr. Gottlieb.

These flu claims may indicate that an OTC product is fraudulent:

  • reduces severity and length of the flu;
  • boosts your immunity naturally without a flu shot;
  • safe and effective alternative to the flu vaccine;
  • prevents catching the flu;
  • effective treatment for the flu;
  • faster recovery from the flu; or
  • supports your body's natural immune defenses to fight off the flu.

The FDA routinely warns the public about health scams and has recently taken action against companies promoting and selling unproven treatments for cancer, opioid addiction, and other illnesses.

The FDA encourages healthcare professionals and consumers to report adverse reactions associated with these or similar products to the agency’s MedWatch program.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.