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Offers to Treat Biological Threats:
What You Need to Know
Produced in cooperation
with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
and the Food and Drug Administration.
The recent reports of anthrax exposure
have spawned numerous websites and emails selling Ciprofloxacin
(Cipro) and other antibiotics for treatment. The Federal
Trade Commission (FTC) warns that fraudsters often follow
the headlines, tailoring their offers to prey on consumers'
fears and vulnerabilities.
If you're wondering whether to buy
products online from sellers who claim that their products
will protect you from biological threats, the FTC, as
well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have
news for you:
Talk to your
health-care professional before you use any medications.
Unless you are specifically notified or instructed by
public health officials, there is no need to obtain
or take antibiotics to prevent anthrax. Confirming an
infection requires a doctor's examination and diagnosis.
This is particularly important for anthrax. A general
questionnaire does not provide enough information-or
the right kind of information-for a health-care professional
to determine whether 1) a particular drug will work
for you; 2) it is safe to use; 3) another treatment
is more appropriate; 4) there will be adverse reactions
with another medication you're taking; or 5) you have
an underlying medical condition, such as an allergy,
that could make the drug harmful.
some websites may sell ineffective drugs.
Some sites may claim to sell FDA-approved drugs, like
Cipro, made to meet U.S. standards. But they may be
selling a similar drug made elsewhere, where there may
be no guarantee of appropriate manufacturing standards.
There also may be no way for you to tell whether a drug
is an ineffective "knock-off" just by looking
at the pills. In fact, the drugs could be counterfeit
or even adulterated with dangerous contaminants.
you're buying from.
Would you buy a prescription drug from a sidewalk vendor?
Online, anyone can pretend to be anyone. Because it
is easy to fake email addresses, be mindful of who you're
buying a product from. You may send the website your
money and not get the real thing-or anything-in return.
To ensure that the site is reputable and licensed to
sell drugs in the United States, the FDA recommends
that you check with the National Association of Boards
of Pharmacy (www.nabp.net,
(847) 698-6227) to determine whether a website is a
licensed pharmacy in good standing.
In addition, the FTC and the FDA also
issue these cautions:
Don't buy prescription drugs from sites that offer
to 1) prescribe them for the first time without a
physical exam, 2) sell a prescription drug without
a prescription, or 3) sell drugs not approved by the
FDA. According to the American Medical Association,
prescribing medication without a doctor's examination
is considered substandard medical care.
Don't do business with websites that do not provide
you with access to a registered pharmacist to answer
Avoid sites that don't provide their name, physical
business address, and phone number. Otherwise, you
will never know who you're dealing with and how to
reach them if there is a problem.
Don't purchase from foreign websites at this time.
It is generally illegal to import the drugs bought
from these sites; the risks are greater, and there
is very little the U.S. government can do if you get
If you buy drugs online, pay by credit or charge
card. If you pay for online purchases by credit or
charge card, the Fair Credit Billing Act will protect
your transaction. Under this law, you have the right
to dispute charges under certain circumstances and
withhold payment while the creditor is investigating
those charges. In the case of unauthorized use of
a consumer's credit or charge card, consumers generally
are held liable only for the first $50 in charges.
Some cards may provide additional warranty or purchase
The FDA regulates over $1 trillion worth of products,
which account for 25 cents of every dollar spent annually
by American consumers. It is part of the FDA's job to
see that the food we eat is safe and wholesome and that
the medicines and medical devices we use are safe and
effective. For more information, call toll-free, 1-888-INFO-FDA
(1-888-463-6332), or visit the FDA website, www.fda.gov.
Disease Control and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
is recognized as the lead federal agency for protecting
the health and safety of people-at home and abroad,
providing credible information to enhance health decisions,
and promoting health through strong partnerships. CDC
serves as the national focus for developing and applying
disease prevention and control, environmental health,
and health promotion and education activities designed
to improve the health of the people of the United States.
Recognized for expertise in Infectious Diseases, the
CDC, located in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, is an agency
of the Department of Health and Human Services. General
information can be accessed on our website,
www.cdc.gov. Information on bioterrorism and public
health preparedness can be obtained at www.bt.cdc.gov
and also by telephone at 1-800-311-3435.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information
to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free
information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov
or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil
and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.