FDA Warns of Fraudulent, Unapproved Influenza Drugs

MARCH 02, 2018
Laurie Toich, Associate Editor
Officials with the FDA have issued a statement warning consumers to be wary of unapproved products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure influenza, according to the agency's press release. 

This year’s flu season not only resulted in a significant number of flu infections, but also an uptick in concerns regarding the potential of individuals purchasing unapproved products.

The FDA is especially concerned that patients may be lured into purchasing counterfeit antivirals online from websites posing as pharmacies, according to the release.

“This year the flu has been widespread, impacting millions of patients across the country, and leading to a new record number of flu-related hospitalizations,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in the release. “We understand the toll this year’s flu season has taken on peoples’ lives. As the flu continues to make people sick—and even cause deaths—unscrupulous actors may also be taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers by promoting their fraudulent products that have not been reviewed by the FDA to be safe and effective.”

The FDA advises Americans that there are no legal OTC products that can prevent or cure the flu itself; however, there are legally marketed OTC drugs that can address the symptoms of the flu, including fever, muscle aches, and congestion.

In the release, the agency noted that several claims may indicate that a product is fraudulent:
  • reduces severity and length of the flu
  • boosts immunity without vaccination
  • alternative to the flu vaccine
  • prevents the flu
  • treatment for the flu
  • faster recovery for the flu
  • boosts your immune response against the flu
Health scams—such as fraudulent flu drugs—can result in wasted money, delays in diagnosis and treatment, and may lead to serious injury or death, according to the release.

To combat fraud, the FDA issues warnings to the public and regularly takes actions against the companies that promote these products. Due to some companies moving their operations to new websites, there are still a number of unapproved and potentially harmful products being sold to Americans, according to the release.


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