FDA launches campaign against fake Internet pharmacies

(CNN) -- Buyers beware when it comes to buying medicine online, the Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers.

On Friday, the agency launched "BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy," a national campaign to raise awareness about fake Internet pharmacies and their potential risk to consumer health.

"Buying medicines from rogue online pharmacies can be risky because they may sell fake, expired, contaminated, not approved by FDA, or otherwise unsafe products that are dangerous to patients," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.

"Fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies often offer deeply discounted products. If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are. FDA's BeSafeRx campaign is designed to help patients learn how to avoid these risks."

The agency did a survey and found that about 1 in 4 consumers bought prescription drugs online. Nearly 30% said they were not confident about buying drugs safely on the Internet.

In July, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy analyzed more than 10,000 websites and found 97% were not in compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws and were listed as "Not Recommended."

These products present a potential serious risk because they can contain too little or too much active ingredient, the wrong ingredients altogether or no active ingredient at all. The agency is telling patients to only buy their prescription drugs through online pharmacies that:

--are located in the United States

--require a "valid" prescription from a doctor/health care professional

--provide a licensed pharmacist for consultation

--are licensed by the patient's state board of pharmacy.