The FDA Is Warning People About Fake Flu Medications & Here's What You Need To Know

It's been a brutal year for the flu so far, and many people are desperate for relief. But although certain medications at your local pharmacy may promise a miracle, it appears that not all of them can be trusted. The FDA is now warning people about fake flu medications, because the market is reportedly full of unapproved products trying to lure in unsuspecting consumers.

On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put out a press release acknowledging how bad this year's flu season has been, and warning that it has made consumers more susceptible to being, according to the release, "lured into buying unproven flu treatments, and even worse, buying counterfeit antivirals online from websites that appear to be legitimate online pharmacies."

Turns out that, according to the FDA, no legal over-the-counter products have been proven to cure or prevent flu, even though the packaging might claim otherwise. Some products can definitely help with easing the pain of nasty influenza symptoms, like fever and congestion, but many medications will claim to do more than that.

Meanwhile, getting a prescription for Tamiflu could help flu sufferers, or those who are worried about coming down with the illness (although, according to the National Center for Health Research, doctors are mixed on whether or not Tamiflu is actually that effective), but many online pharmacies are reportedly claiming to provide Tamiflu for lower prices or without a prescription, only to scam consumers by giving them counterfeit drugs that could end up being dangerous, as the FDA reported.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D said in the press release:

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. We understand the toll this year’s flu season has taken on peoples’ lives. As the flu continues to make people sick — and even cause deaths — unscrupulous actors may also be taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers by promoting their fraudulent products that have not been reviewed by the FDA to be safe and effective. The FDA is warning consumers to be alert, and try and steer clear of fraudulent flu products, which may be found online or in retail stores.

The FDA warned consumers in the press release that a product was probably fraudulent if it claimed to naturally boost immunity or otherwise make a flu shot unnecessary, prevent a consumer from getting the flu altogether, or help someone stricken with the flu fight it off and recover faster.

It's particularly concerning that people are trying to take advantage of consumers with flu medication scams now, because the disease was worse than normal this year. According to MarketWatch, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 114 pediatric deaths due to flu this season by the end of February. No wonder many are believing these false claims — that's an incredibly scary figure, and it would be really nice if an easy remedy existed.

The flu season seems to have peaked, according to CNN, but people aren't out of the woods yet, so it's not too late to get a flu shot. And as Gottleib said in the FDA's press release:

All of us must also continue to be diligent in doing our part to prevent the spread of flu however possible. People who are sick with flu-like symptoms and those who are at high risk of serious flu complications should see a health care professional as soon as possible to see if they should be treated with antiviral drugs.

So if an over-the-counter medication promises to prevent or end your flu, don't trust it. And when it comes to online pharmacies, only buy from one that requires a valid prescription from your doctor, and is licensed by your local state board of pharmacy. The flu is very scary, but so is spending a lot of money on products that won't help you at best, and actively hurt you at worst.

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