There are roughly 35,000 online websites claiming to be legitimate online pharmacies worldwide and 95% of them are operate illegally in violation of state and/or federal law and relevant pharmacy practice standards.1 Some of these fraudulent online pharmacies are scamming people by distributing counterfeit or fake medications.2 Unfortunately anyone can fall victim to these scam sites, especially older adults who are drawn to them because of the lower prices offered for what they believe is their medication.2

Fake pharmacies are targeting seniors, those 55 and older, because this demographic segment is responsible for 71 percent of outpatient prescriptions.3 Recently, there have been several incidents of patients receiving counterfeit versions of cancer medicines, Botox®, and Viagra®, as well as drugs prescribed for high cholesterol and mental health conditions.3 Since 2000, the FDA has investigated an average of 20 such cases per year, up from five a year in the 1990s.2

Counterfeit Medication is More Dangerous Than It Used to be

With fraudulent online pharmacy scams on the rise, there are now bigger dangers than losing your money. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has recently issued an alert about counterfeit medications laced with illicitly manufactured fentanyl.4 Many of these fake medications are being sold illegally by fraudulent online pharmacies.2,3 And, according to a University of Connecticut post from June 2022, 4 in 10 counterfeit opioid pills containing fentanyl harbor a potentially lethal dose.5 In fact, opioid-related deaths have increased in the U.S. for adults ages 55 and older from 518 deaths in 1999 to 10,292 deaths in 2019.6 This is a 1,886 percent increase.6 Due to these increases, there is now a higher chance of opioid overdose in individuals aged 45 and up than in those aged 34 and under.7

6 Ways to Recognize Online Pharmacy Fraud

Using a reputable, accredited, legal, online pharmacy to buy medication is a common practice for many adults, including those who are 55 and older.8 Ordering prescriptions online is usually a simple and convenient process that can save time and money. Unfortunately, not all websites claiming to be online pharmacies are trustworthy. Here are six ways you can spot a scam storefront on the internet: 9

  • Fake pharmacies often don’t require a prescription for the medications you want to order. Only buy medications from online pharmacies that need to see a prescription from your doctor.
  • They offer discounts that appear “too good to be true”.
  • They say they will ship prescriptions worldwide.
  • The supposed “pharmacy” claims to be located in the United States but does not list a location or phone number.
  • You can’t find the seller’s state pharmacy license or equivalent state health authority license.
  • They don’t have a state-licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.

Shopping for medication online can save you money and time, but take precautions to distinguish legitimate sellers from fraudsters and scam artists. If you are worried that a loved one has fallen victim to a scam because you are unsure where their medication is coming from, talk to them about it. Help them find a legitimate pharmacy and make sure they have a naloxone medication such as Kloxxado® (naloxone HCl) Nasal Spray 8 mg they can use in case of an accidental overdose related to opioids or other medications that may be laced with illicit fentanyl.

Kloxxado® is a registered trademark of Hikma Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. Please see the full Prescribing Information and Medication Guide for Kloxxado® for complete product details.

BOTOX® and its design are registered trademarks of Allergan, Inc., an AbbVie company.

VIAGRA is a registered trademark of Viatris Specialty LLC, a Viatris Company. VIATRIS and the Viatris logo are trademarks of Mylan Inc., a Viatris Company.

NOTE: This article was not written by a medical professional and is not intended to substitute for the guidance of a physician. These are not Hikma’s recommendations, but rather facts and data collected from various reliable medical sources. For a full list of resources and their attributing links, see below.