More Illegal Sites Running Online Abortion Pill Scams

August 4, 2022 — Many women seeking abortion pills online have unknowingly ordered the pills from one of the many fake clinics making false claims, pharmacy experts report.

While some online sites are licensed and connect consumers to pills legitimately, illegal sites may sell counterfeit or expired pills or deliver no pills and simply steal payment information. Al Carter, PharmD, executive director of the National Association of Nonprofit Boards of Pharmacy, said that since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June there was an increase in his team discovering illegal online sites selling what they claim to be. abortive drugs.

“Ninety-six percent of online pharmacies are illegitimate,” he says. “They violate some type of state or federal law in almost every case.”

The court ruled that individual states could ban abortion procedures. The patchwork of laws and resulting barriers to access have created the conditions for a growing online black market for mifepristone and misoprostol, two drugs used in combination to induce abortions.

Interest in the drugs skyrocketed after the Supreme Court ruling leaked in May.

Within 3 days of the leak, online searches for abortion drugs jumped 162% from the 3 days before the decision, according to a published report JAMA internal medicine.

Red flags

Among the red flags that an abortion pill website is fraudulent, Carter says, is the fact that the site doesn’t ask for a prescription for abortion drugs. Mifepristone and misoprostol are only legally available on prescription.

If there’s no contact where you can talk to a pharmacist, that’s another clue, he says.

Sites that make false claims about abortion pills are growing much like illegal sites that sprung up during the pandemic peddling COVID-19 “cures” and unapproved vaccines and treatments, Carter says, adding that the same tactics based on fear are used.

Where to check websites

The NABP tries to draw attention to illegal websites not only for abortion drugs, but also for painkillers and the like with its secure pharmacy site. There you can plug in the address of the website in question and check its legitimacy.

Libby Baney, JD, senior adviser to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), an advocacy group, says that in addition to the NABP safe pharmacy site, they recommend consumers looking for an online site to buy abortion pills from check out legitscript.com, which accredits legitimate online pharmacies and telemedicine companies.

“Check before you buy,” she says. “It is very easy to circumvent the rules on the internet and operate anonymously from an unknown jurisdiction offering counterfeit or substandard pills.”

Baney says as more states consider banning access to abortion procedures and pills, the number of illegal websites will increase.

“The criminals are suppliers and there is consumer demand,” she says.

The key is to verify the website address. Even sites that appear to belong to large drugstore chains may have a slightly modified URL, she warns.

Consumers have grown accustomed to trusting the first entries that appear when searching in a browser because they assume they’ve been vetted as the most accurate, Baney says. While it may work to verify a country’s capital, online drug buying algorithms should be viewed with caution.

According to a survey commissioned by ASOP, almost half (45%) of Americans mistakenly believe that all websites offering health care services/prescription drugs to Americans have been approved by the FDA or the authorities state regulations.

“This misconception is even higher (59%) among those who have ever purchased prescription drugs online,” the research says.

Baney warned against trusting an algorithm with online pharmacies selling abortion pills.

“Criminals know how to play,” she says.

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