Agencies Offer Tips for Consumers Eyeing Online Anthrax Cures

FTC Says Fraudsters Prey on Consumers' Fears

For Release

Consumers who are visiting Web sites and receiving e-mail claiming to sell Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and other antibiotics to treat anthrax should consult a new Consumer Alert before they buy products online, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The Alert, "Offers to Treat Biological Threats: What You Need to Know," produced in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warns that fraudsters often follow the headlines, tailoring their offers to prey on consumers' fears and vulnerabilities. The Alert advises consumers to:

  • Talk to your healthcare professional before you use any medications.
    Confirming an infection requires a doctor's examination and diagnosis. This is particularly important for anthrax.
  • Know that some Web sites may sell ineffective drugs.
    Some sites may claim to sell FDA-approved drugs, like Cipro, made to meet U. S. standards. In fact, the drugs could be counterfeit or even adulterated with dangerous contaminants.
  • Know who you're buying from.
    Would you buy a prescription drug from a sidewalk vendor? Online, anyone can pretend to be anyone. To ensure that the site is reputable and licensed to sell drugs in the United States, the FDA recommends that you check with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy at ,or at (847-698-6227), to determine whether a Web site is a licensed pharmacy in good standing.

In addition, the FTC and FDA caution:

  • Don't buy prescription drugs from sites that offer to prescribe them without a physical exam, sell drugs without a prescription or sell drugs unapproved by the FDA
  • Don't do business with Web sites that don't give you access to pharmacists to answer questions;
  • Avoid sites that don't provide their name, physical business address, and phone number;
  • Don't purchase from foreign Web sites. It is generally illegal to import drugs that are sold by these sites; the risks are greater, and there is very little the U.S. government can do if you get ripped off.
  • If you buy drugs online, pay by credit or charge card.

For more information from the federal government about treatments for anthrax, visit . For more information from the FDA, call toll-free 1-800-INFO-FDA or visit . Information on bioterrorism and public health preparedness from the CDC is available at and also by telephone at 1-800-311-3435. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumers issues, call the FTC, toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP or use the complaint form at

Copies of the Consumer Alert are available from the FTC's Web site at and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Brenda Mack
Office of Public Affairs
Staff Contact:
Richard Cleland
Bureau of Consumer Protection