National Consumers League

NCL announces new action center to help patients steer clear of deadly counterfeit drug websites

December 5, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, today launched Fraud.org/FakeRx, a new digital consumer education campaign to address the growing global crisis of harmful counterfeit medications. The World Health Organization estimates that one in every 10 medical products circulating in developed countries is either substandard or fake, and nearly $83 billion in counterfeit drugs are sold annually. Counterfeit drugs can be, at best, a waste of money and, at worst, fatal.  The Partnership for Safe Medicines has found counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in 48 states, with deaths attributed in 33.

“Counterfeit drugs are everywhere, and they are dangerous. Going to the Internet to buy medicines is a bad idea if you don’t know how to protect yourself from illegal pharmacies selling counterfeit drugs. Consumers do not realize how common counterfeits are; our campaign aims to provide the tools and resources to help consumers steer clear of illegal products and protect themselves and their families,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “NCL is launching Fraud.org/FakeRx to serve as a hub for reliable information for consumers and law enforcement.  Our action center helps consumers learn how to spot the red flags of counterfeit drugs and report issues to law enforcement.”

With the growth of Internet sales of medications, the problem of illegal pharmacies hawking counterfeit drugs is a growing risk to consumers. Visitors to Fraud.org/FakeRx can arm themselves with information to:

  • Reduce the chances they’ll encounter counterfeit drugs and shop safely for medications online
  • Learn to spot harmful counterfeit drugs if they do; and
  • Report counterfeit drugs and the websites offering them to the authorities fighting the problem.

“Criminals posing as legitimate online pharmacies are a serious threat to our nation’s drug supply and to unsuspecting consumers who purchase contaminated or potentially deadly counterfeit medications,” said George Karavetsos, former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations. “Policymakers, regulators, and manufacturers have clear roles for doing their part to protect our drug supply, but having informed consumers is essential to shutting down this illegal online market. This campaign gives consumers the tools they need to stay safe and keep criminals from lining their pockets with consumers’ money.”

NCL has worked with victims of suspected and confirmed counterfeit drugs to capture their experiences and report them to authorities. Two mothers who each lost their adult children to tainted counterfeit medications have lent their stories to the new campaign in hopes of helping others avoid falling to the same fate.

"I lost my son, Jerome, himself a loving big brother and father of three beautiful children, to a counterfeit drug laced with fentanyl. It took one single pill to take Jerome away from us," said Natasha Butler, whose son was one of a wave of victims of counterfeit drug deaths in Sacramento in 2016. "We had no idea that these dangerous drugs, manufactured to look exactly like the real thing, are out there and could be the last drug someone ever takes. Anyone who takes medication or fills prescriptions needs to be aware of the risks of counterfeits, and that where you get drugs is so crucial for your safety and health. Everyone should visit Fraud.org/FakeRx to learn about the risks and how to avoid being the next victim."

 "On June 11, 2018 my phone rang at 7:24 am. The voice on the other line told me that my beautiful daughter, Ashley, was dead. Ashley had been given a counterfeit pill laced with fentanyl. I was told by the coroner that she probably died instantly,” said Andrea Thomas, a Colorado mother who, since her daughter’s death from a counterfeit drug, co-founded Voices for Awareness Foundation. “The deadly pill Ashley took looked just like her normal medication. This is an epidemic in our country that I previously knew nothing about. It is time to take action. The National Consumers League’s new resources for consumers will help spread awareness and will make a difference to many.”

To hear from additional victims who know the issue firsthand, visit the new Fraud.org/FakeRx. The site also includes tips for consumers about ways to save on prescription drugs without increasing their risks of purchasing counterfeits. 

NCL thanks its partners for providing support for the new campaign: Allergan, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Gilead Sciences, Pfizer, and PhRMA.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.