As part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 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. 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.
Consumers should be aware that there are no legally marketed over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to prevent or cure the flu. However, there are legal OTC products to reduce fever and to relieve muscle aches, congestion and other symptoms typically associated with the flu. Products sold online are fraudulent if they claim to prevent, treat or cure the flu, and have not been evaluated by the FDA for that intended use.
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.
Online pharmacies present another opportunity for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Online 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;
- 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.
- 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.
The FDA encourages health care professionals and consumers to report adverse reactions associated with these or similar products to the agency’s MedWatch program.
For more information, please visit: FDA Warns of Fraudulent and Unapproved Flu Products.