Fake pharmaceuticals a triple threat to brands online

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 97 percent of online pharmacies are illegitimate and unsafe.

Many of these online pharmacies involve highly sophisticated criminal enterprises and sell medicines that don’t work or are harmful to your health. Beyond serious health dangers, many of these illegitimate online pharmacy schemes also utilize malware to steal consumer credentials (such as credit card numbers and identities) – which further heightens the gravity of the situation. What’s more, these threats of imposter medical products can also bleed into online reputation and domain management issues. 

For pharmaceutical companies, being associated with these types of illegitimate online pharmacies is a serious concern. Many of these online pharmacies appear legitimate – so much so that even experts have a hard time distinguishing a legitimate online pharmacy at a glance.

It’s no surprise that countless victims have been endangered by rogue online pharmacies. Counterfeit drugs pose significant health risks to consumers for various reasons, including drugs not being stored correctly, incorrect dosages being prescribed or the use of unknown ingredients. And when casualties happen, the problem for pharmaceuticals and brand owners escalates exponentially.

Follow these tips to help preserve the health of both your brand and your consumers online:

• Look for the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) Seal from NABP, if you are based in the United States.
• Confirm whether a prescription is required for a drug listing. Legitimate online pharmacies always require a valid prescription! If the site boasts “no prescription required”, that’s an immediate red flag.
• What countries does the pharmacy ships to? Pharmacies should be licensed in every jurisdiction they ship to, so if a site offers worldwide shipping, take that as a warning that a site may be illegitimate. In most cases, pharmacies must be licensed both where they are and where the patient is located and cannot simply sell drugs to anyone, anywhere.
• Look out for diverted goods. Many sites will specifically call out if they source product from one country and ship to another. Compare language on the packaging and the product website. There are liability considerations when someone receives a product where packaging and information is in another language that a patient is unable to understand.
• Legitimate pharmacies do not sell unapproved drugs. If the site is promoting unregulated drugs, take that as a clear sign that the site is a rogue online pharmacy.
• All legitimate online pharmacies should provide contact information to a licensed pharmacist.

While these are clear indicators to identify a rogue online pharmacy, the reality is that many consumers are still falling victims to these scams. Consequently, brand owners must take the driver’s seat and proactively identify and take down these rogue online pharma sites to ensure consumer safety.

Want to learn more? Contact our experts today.