FDA warns of fake gov't warning letters sent to consumers

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. health authorities are alerting consumers to a new scam involving fake government warning letters sent to people who tried to buy medicines online or over the phone.

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that the fake letters may be part of an extortion scam. However, authorities have not yet documented cases of consumers being coerced to turn over money.

The forged letters claim to be from the FDA or the Federal Trade Commission, but those agencies almost never issue such warnings to private individuals, but rather to companies, professionals or industry officials. The letters falsely claim that the government is investigating the drugs the consumers attempted to purchase.

FDA officials have repeatedly warned about the risks of buying medicines through unverified online pharmacies.

Statement from FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb:

“While warning letters are a common compliance tool used by the FDA, we typically send them directly to companies and individuals involved in the manufacturing or distribution of FDA-regulated products. Consumers who aren’t involved in manufacturing or distributing FDA regulated products should be on alert that if you get an FDA warning letter, it’s probably fake, and probably a scam. We know the confusion and concern that these fake warning letters may cause and want to assure consumers that we generally don’t take action against individuals for purchasing a medicine online, though we regularly take action against the owners and operators of illegal websites. With that said, as a public health agency, we must remind consumers of the dangers of purchasing medicines from illegal online pharmacies. These risks range from receiving unapproved and potentially counterfeit medicines to unknowingly making themselves targets to scams like these. Many of these illegal websites appear legitimate, and it can be hard to tell the difference between a legally operating online pharmacy and a rogue website. We understand the temptation to buy online, and there are ways to do it safely, including only buying from U.S.-licensed pharmacies that require a prescription.”

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