Buyers Tips

Prescription Drugs from Abroad

Ordering prescription drugs through foreign mail-order houses is not only illegal, but can also be dangerous to your health. Before you place such an order, your BBB suggests you know the facts.

Prescription mail-order houses, located in other countries, entice consumers to purchase U.S. patented prescription drug products through advertisements in popular magazines or on the Internet. According to these ads, American consumers can use a credit card to order medications online or call a toll-free telephone number, often at greatly reduced prices and apparently without a doctor's prescription.

The quality of "foreign versions" of prescription drugs is often unknown. In too many cases the drugs are counterfeits - lacking any real similarity to the approved drug. Directions for appropriate use of the product are often inadequate or incorrect. The ease with which these unapproved and sometimes potent mail-order drugs can be obtained, frequently without a doctor's examination or prescription, raises serious concerns about self-medication without the guidance of a licensed practitioner.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against purchasing medications from web sites or mail-order houses located outside the United States because of the severe adverse health consequences that can result from the improper use of prescription drugs. Generally it will be illegal to import the drugs bought from these locations. If you have questions about the importation of drug products for personal use, consult with your local FDA district office or visit the FDA web site at

The time to question bargain pharmaceutical deals from abroad is before you make the purchase. There is very little the U.S. Government or the BBB can do if you purchase medications or prescription drugs from a foreign-based business and suffer medical or financial harm.


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