FDA: Be wary of over-the-counter drugs that ‘cure’ the flu

This year's widespread flu season has been deadly, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about unapproved flu drugs that could cause more harm than good.

This year’s severe flu season has raised new concerns for officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – fraudulent flu treatments.

“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,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “We understand the toll this year’s flu season has taken on peoples’ lives.”

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Officials are concerned that consumers can be lured into not only buy unproven flu treatments, but even worse, buy counterfeit antivirals online from websites that appear to be legitimate online pharmacies.

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There are no legally marketed over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to prevent or cure the flu, the FDA says. However, there are legal OTC products that alleviate or reduce symptoms of the flu, including, fever, muscle aches, and congestion. Products sold online are scams if they claim to prevent, treat or cure the flu and have not been evaluated by the FDA for that intended purpose.

These “flu claims” may indicate a product isn’t real:

  • Reduces severity or length of flu
  • Boosts your immunity naturally without a flu shot
  • Safe and effective alternative to the flu vaccine
  • Prevents catching the flu
  • Effective treatment for the flu
  • Faster recovery from the flu
  • Supports your body’s natural immune defenses to fight off the flu

Beware of online pharmacies that allow you to buy prescription medicine without a prescription from your health care provider; do not have U.S. state-licensed pharmacists available to answer your questions; or offer low prices that seem “too good to be true.”

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These pharmacies are often selling medicines that are considered dangerous because they have too much or too little of an active ingredient to treat disease, do not contain the right active ingredient or have other wrong or harmful ingredients in them.

Health frauds and scams are not only a waste of money, but lead to delays in getting proper diagnoses and treatment and may even lead to more serious injuries or death. The FDA routinely warns the public about these scams and has recently started to take action against companies behind fake health products or medications.

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Legitimate online pharmacies do exist, but so do many other sites that look like they could be. The FDA recommends you only buy prescriptions from your local pharmacy or order from an online pharmacy that requires a valid prescription from a licensed doctor or other authorized health care professional.

Report any health products, scam websites or adverse reactions to the MedWatch program.

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.