A pharmacy expert reports that many women seeking abortion pills online have been ordering the pills from a fake clinic making false claims.
A few online sites offer legitimately licensed services and enable consumers to order pills, while an illegal site may sell counterfeit or expired pills, or deliver no pills and just steal payment information. According to Al Carter, the executive director of the nonprofit National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, since the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in June, there has been an increase in the frequency of his team’s discovery of illegal online sites that are illegally selling abortion medications.
“Over 90% of the online pharmacies are illegitimate,” he says. They are almost all violating state or federal laws.
The courts ruled that individual states had the right to ban certain abortion procedures. The availability of the drugs on the black market has caused the black market to thrive and this availability has created ripe conditions for an increase in abortions.
Interest in these drugs increased following the Supreme Court’s leaked ruling in May.
The number of online searches for abortion medications surged 162% within three days after the leak, according to a report published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Carter cites as red flags of a fraudulent abortion-pill site are that the site does not ask for a prescription for the drugs. You can only legally obtain mifepristone and misoprostol with a prescription.
If you are unable to speak with a pharmacist, that is another clue, he says.
Fake abortion pill sites are growing just like how illegal sites peddling COVID-19 cures and non-approved vaccines and treatments popped up during the pandemic, Carter says, adding that the same fear-based tactics are being used.
Where to Check Websites
With its safe pharmacy website, the NABP aims to bring attention to the illegal sale of abortion drugs, pain medication, and other medicines. Enter the website address in question and check its validity.
Libby Baney, JD, senior adviser to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), advises consumers who wish to buy abortion pills to use NABP-certified websites only, plus other legitimate, verified websites which accredit such pharmacies and telemedicine companies.
“Verify before you buy,” she suggests. “It’s very easy to operate anonymously from some unknown jurisdiction and sell counterfeit or substandard drugs.”
Baney warns that as more states consider banning abortion procedures and medication, the number of illegal websites will grow.
“This is a problem caused by criminals and consumers are demanding these items,” she says.
Check the website address. Even sites belonging to major chain pharmacies may have a slightly altered URL, she says.
Patients have become accustomed to trusting the first entries that come up in a browser search and assuming they are the most accurate, Baney says. It might work for checking a country’s capital, but algorithms for buying medicines online 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/presrecriptionsare approved by the FDA or state regulators.
“As noted in the study, this misconception is even higher (59%) among those who have previously purchased prescription medicines online.”
Online pharmacies which sell abortion pills are best not trusted with the advice of Baney.
“Criminals know how to game the system,” says she.