How Fraudulent Online Drug Sellers Are Making the Opioid Epidemic Worse

February 9, 2018

Topics: Controlled Substances, Counterfeit Drugs, Internet Pharmacies, Prescription Drug Abuse

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) published the February 2018 Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators. The report provides an update on the internet drug buying landscape and how the online sale of counterfeit medications is exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the United States.

In a recent study, NABP evaluated 100 websites selling medications to patients in the US, and all of them were found to be operating illegally. The study found that:

  • 54% of the sites were selling controlled substances (CS). This is a substantial jump from the 13% of all sites NABP has reviewed and listed as “Not Recommended” in the past nine years that were selling CS.
  • 98% of the sites did not require a valid prescription.
  • 76% of the sites offered foreign or non-Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs.
  • 40% of the sites were selling CS, including opioids frequently linked to fentanyl-related overdoses. The most common CS being offered with no prescription was Xanax®, a drug whose counterfeit could contain fentanyl.

More than 63,600 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sixty-six percent of those deaths were caused by opioids, including fentanyl, a drug that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Opioid painkillers have been linked to the largest number of overdose deaths compared to all other illicit drug classes each year since 2001. These numbers help illustrate the gravity of the opioid problem in America, a situation made worse by the availability of these drugs illegally online. Restricting illegal online drug sellers from appearing in search results would limit public exposure to counterfeit and potentially dangerous medication, a solution that NABP supports.

The Chicago and Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau is partnering with the Association to educate consumers on the dangers of illegal online drug sellers and to help them stay safe when buying medicines online. “Consumer protection is a key mission of our organization and nothing could be more important than protecting citizens against counterfeit claims that could impact their health,” said Chicago and Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau President Steve Bernas.

Consumers who buy medicines from NABP-verified websites can be confident they are buying medicine from trustworthy, legitimate pharmacies. An easy way to know that a website has been verified by NABP is to look for the .pharmacy domain at the end of the web address. A list of safe online pharmacies and related resources can be found on the Buying Safely page of www.safe.pharmacy.

Read the full report and learn more about online counterfeit drug sales and their impact on the opioid epidemic in America by visiting the Program and Committee Reports page in the Publications and Reports section of www.nabp.pharmacy.

NABP is the independent, international, and impartial Association that assists its state member boards and jurisdictions for the purpose of protecting the public health.