Key Data About Illegal Online Drug Sellers and Counterfeit Medicines
  • It is estimated that up to a third of the world’s prescription drugs are counterfeit [1], although this figure is closer to two-thirds in some developing countries.[2] Of these, more than half are classified as lifesaving drugs, such as treatments for malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.[3]
  • Worth $200 billion a year, the market for counterfeit pharmaceuticals now eclipses almost everything else in the underground economy, including prostitution, human trafficking and illegal arms sales.[4]
  • A recent review of more than 11,000 websites selling prescription medications to U.S. consumers found approximately 96% appear to be in conflict with U.S. laws and pharmacy practice standards [5] and 20 new websites selling prescription medicines are launched every day.[6]
  • 65% of online search results for prescription drugs lead U.S. consumers to illegal and unsafe websites.[7]
  • 50% of medicines sold online by pharmacy websites that hide their physical street address are fake and 89% of illegal online pharmacies don’t require a prescription.[8]
  • Products sold by illegal online drugs sellers often contain little or no active ingredients; are manufactured in unsafe conditions; and/or contain floor wax, mercury, concrete, chalk, boric acid, road tar, paint, anti-freeze and other deadly poisons.[9]
  • Buying prescription medicines from illegal online pharmacies increases the risk of credit card and identity theft.[10]
  • Nearly one in four adult consumers has purchased prescription medicines online and almost one in five of those indicated that they bought from a website that was not associated with a local pharmacy or health insurance plan.[11]  

[1] Counterfeiting: An Industry Three Times Larger than the Illicit Global Drug Trade, Sophic Capital, 2014

[2] Counterfeit Medicines and the Role of IP in Patient Safety, IP Watchdog, 2016

[3] The World’s Medical Supply Chain Is Riddled With Counterfeit Drugs, New Republic, 2015

[4] Counterfeiting: An Industry Three Times Larger than the Illicit Global Drug Trade, Sophic Capital, 2014

[5] Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 2016

[6] The Internet Pharmacy Market in 2016, LegitScript and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, January 2016

[7] Online Pharmacy Market Spotlight Report: The United States, ASOP Global and LegitScript, July 2016

[8] Buying Medicine Online – What Are the Risks, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy

[9] Poisons Found in Counterfeit Medicines, Partnership for Safe Medicines, 2012

[10] What You Need to Know Before You Buy Prescription Medications Online, Disease Management, 2015

[11] Buying Prescription Medicines Online, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2013