FDA Warns of Flu Treatment Claims

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to consumers to be wary of unapproved products claiming to prevent, treat or cure influenza or flu and to avoid buying prescription-only flu medicines from unlicensed online pharmacies.

This year’s deadly flu season may tempt some consumers to buy unproven flu treatments, and even worse, buy counterfeit antivirals online from websites that appear to be legitimate online pharmacies.

The FDA says there are no legally marketed over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to prevent or cure the flu, but there are legal OTC products to reduce fever and to relieve muscle aches, congestion and other symptoms typically associated with the flu. Online products are frauds if they claim to prevent, treat or cure the flu, especially since the products have not been evaluated by the FDA for that use.

Claims that indicate 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.
  • Supports your body’s natural immune defenses to fight off the flu.

Health fraud scams waste money, lead to delays in getting a proper diagnosis and treatment, and may even lead to more serious injuries or death, the FDA said.

Online pharmacies present another opportunity for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. These pharmacies may claim to sell prescription antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, at reduced prices or without a prescription. The FDA advises consumers to avoid purchasing products making such claims.

Beware of online pharmacies that:

  • Allow you to buy prescription medicine without a prescription from your health care provider.
  • Are not licensed by the California State Board of Pharmacy.
  • 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.
  • Are located outside of the U.S. or that ship worldwide.
  • Do not display the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal and DON’T have a web address with an active “.pharmacy” domain. 

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.
  • Contain wrong or other harmful ingredients.

The FDA recommends consumers buy prescription drugs from their local pharmacy or only through an online pharmacy that requires a valid prescription from a doctor or other authorized health care professional and is licensed by the California State Board of Pharmacy.

For more information, view the Board of Pharmacy’s brochure on counterfeit prescription drugs.

To check a pharmacists or pharmacy’s license, go to the California State Board of Pharmacy’s online license search.

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