Are You AWARxE of Counterfeit Drug Dangers Online?

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

In difficult economic times, it’s tempting to look for ways to save money by purchasing expensive medications online. However, many online pharmacies are fake and their products can cause more harm than good. The AWARxE consumer protection program aims to educate and raise public awareness about rogue Internet drug outlets, counterfeit drug dangers, prescription drug misuse and abuse, and medication safety. Supported by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) Foundation, AWARxE information is developed to reach all consumers and encourages the public to rely on pharmacists for credible information on medication safety, Internet pharmacies, and counterfeit medications.

Order medicine online

The AWARxE Web site,, is the program’s primary communication vehicle and serves as an authoritative source of information for the public. The Web site provides facts and news on illegal drug sites, counterfeit drug dangers, and prescription drug abuse. Consider these facts from AWARxE [1]:

FACT: Counterfeiters are selling fakes of many kinds of drugs, including pills claimed to treat heart disease, arthritis, asthma, AIDS and cancer.

FACT: Many fake drugs are made to look like the real medication — it can be very difficult to tell them apart.

FACT: Although online drug outlets claim the drugs they sell are real, they often sell dangerous counterfeit drugs.

FACT: Internet pharmacies often use state-of-the-art Web sites that may look like legitimate online pharmacies.

FACT: Counterfeit medications can be deadly, often containing too little, too much, or the wrong medicine, and may contain dangerous ingredients such as rat poison, glue or chalk.

FACT: Some fake online pharmacies may falsely claim to be Canadian to seem like a safe source for medicine.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has reviewed more than 9,800 websites selling prescription drugs and has found that only 3%, or 328, appear to be in compliance with state and federal laws and NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards. The other 97% of these sites are considered rogue sites and are listed as ‘Not Recommended’ on the AWARxE website.

Be safe, look for the VIPPS seal

To help consumers verify that a Web site selling prescription drugs is safe, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has created two categories for online pharmacies.

Category 1: Recommended Internet Pharmacies have an accreditation through the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) program.

Category 2: Recommended Internet Pharmacies selling medications for pets have an accreditation through the Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) program.

Internet pharmacies with VIPPS or Vet-VIPPS accreditation have undergone and successfully completed a thorough NABP accreditation process, which includes a review of the Internet pharmacy’s policies and procedures, as well as an on-site inspection of all facilities used by the site to receive, review, and dispense medicine. Look for one of the VIPPS seals (shown below).

A complete list of VIPPS accredited internet pharmacies can be found in the Pharmacy category of the Highlight HEALTH Web Directory. The AWARxE website also provides links to the VIPPS and Vet-VIPPS websites.

Protect your health

The best way to help fight this problem is by spreading awareness. Share information about the VIPPS seal and the dangers associated with purchasing prescription drugs online with your family and friends. If you’re going to buy prescription medications online, visit to learn which sites are safe. A safe pharmacy will be located and licensed in the U.S., have a licensed pharmacist on staff, require a valid prescription from your health care provider, and provide contact information in case you have any questions about your medication.


  1. AWARxE. Get Informed about the Dangers of Prescription Drugs. Accessed 2012 Jul 25.
About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.