America’s healthcare costs are skyrocketing, and many Americans look for ways to save, including turning to online pharmacies for cheaper prescription drugs. While there are legitimate online pharmacies, many can be fraudulent.

In one situation, the online pharmacy will take your money and fail to deliver the promised prescription. In another situation, they could send you a prescription that is counterfeit and may worsen your condition or even be fatal.

A recent survey of 12,000 online pharmacies found that 95 percent of them posed safety concerns to their customers. Media reports have circulated of drugs being laced with lethal doses of fentanyl. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain and is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

At, they have received numerous complaints of consumers paying for drugs online and never receiving them. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid counterfeit prescriptions whether you are purchasing online, or from your neighborhood pharmacy:

  • Verify your online pharmacy. Before purchasing a drug online, go to to make sure your pharmacy is recommended. If it is not on the list, do not purchase drugs from that online pharmacy.
  • Pay attention to the appearance of the drug and its packaging. If the appearance or coloring of the drug seems different from what you expected, or if the packaging appears to be tampered with, this is a red flag.
  • Avoid pharmacies that do not require a prescription. If the pharmacy only requires you to fill out a questionnaire, the pharmacy is probably a seller of counterfeit drugs. Legitimate pharmacies will always require you to submit a prescription from a health care provider before they sell any medicine that requires a prescription.
  • Make sure that the pharmacy has a licensed pharmacist available for consultations and provides you with contact information such as a physical street address. If a pharmacy does not offer these basic services, it is probably illegitimate.
  • Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true. Regardless of whether you are getting your drugs online, at a neighborhood pharmacy, or in a provider’s office, be wary of drugs that are offered at a substantially lower than market-value price. Use drug price comparison tools like to get an idea of what normal market prices are for a particular drug.
  • Consult your doctor or pharmacist. If you think you may have used a counterfeit drug, consult a medical professional immediately even if you are not experiencing adverse symptoms. If you have a suspicion that you have received a drug that is a counterfeit, take it to your pharmacist. Pharmacists are trained to identify the appearance and packaging of legitimate medications.

There are many safe ways to save money on prescription drugs. By following the above steps, and by spreading the word to your friends and family, you can keep yourself and your family safe from fraud and serious health risks associated with counterfeit medications.

If you think you have stumbled upon a counterfeit prescription drug, report it by filing a complaint at via the secure online complaint form. They share complaints with their network of nearly 200 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who work to shut down illegal pharmacies, keep dangerous counterfeit drugs off the streets, and put fraudsters behind bars.

If you are interested in learning more about protecting yourself from counterfeit drug scams, speak with a Community Resource Specialist: (408) 350-3200, option 1.