Bogus Pills

Published January 1, 2005

An endless stream of offers to purchase drugs from the Internet is creating a perfect cover for an alarming rise in counterfeit drugs. Health officials note almost as soon as a prescription drug gains major public recognition, counterfeiters begin creating imitations.

At best, counterfeit drugs are simply ineffective and a waste of money. At worst, the imitations may be harmful.

The Internet has become the most common point of sale for counterfeit drugs. Web site drug stores use recognizable drug names and logos perfectly matched to the real thing, with tempting offers of deep discounts to lure consumers into making a purchase. Frequently, they offer little or no information about the company itself, its location, or qualifications.

Here are some tips to help you protect yourself:

  • Know your medications. If you know the size, shape, color, and taste of the prescriptions you take, you can more easily identify counterfeits.
  • Pay attention to packaging. Check for altered or unsealed containers, or changes in the packaging. Make sure the dosage is what your doctor prescribed.
  • Buy brand name prescriptions or generics only from a reputable source. Local pharmacies are always best.
  • When you buy medications online or by mail-order, make sure the source is properly licensed. Check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy at or your State Board of Pharmacy for licensing information and resources.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.