People who want to treat pandemic H1N1 influenza or who hope to prevent it should be extremely careful about buying products online because many of them are not legitimate, the Food and Drug Administration warned today.
Products advertised as being Tamiflu or other antiviral drugs are particularly suspicious, especially if they can be ordered without a prescription from a physician. Moreover, drugs ordered to treat swine flu would most likely not arrive in time to be of any benefit, the agency said.
The FDA ordered several products online and what they received was rarely what was advertised. One order for Tamiflu, for example, arrived in an unmarked envelope postmarked from India. It consisted of unlabeled white tablets taped between two pieces of paper. Analysis showed the tablets were talc and acetaminophen. Other products contained low levels of Tamiflu, but were not licensed for sale in the United States -- which means that their manufacture was not conducted under the FDA's watch.
"Medicines purchased from websites operating outside the law put consumers at increased risk due to a higher potential that the products will be counterfeit, impure, contaminated, or have too little or too much of the active ingredient," said Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the FDA commissioner. Drugs like Tamiflu that are in high demand are particularly vulnerable to counterfeiting because buyers may be desperate to acquire the product, she added.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II