What should I look for when buying medical supplies online?

The FDA has monitored Internet sales of health products for several years and has sent warnings about illegal practices to more than 50 companies. Even though its resources are limited, the FDA is increasing its monitoring of Internet sales and is working with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop illegal advertising. The FTC works with both state and Federal consumer protection and public health agencies. It can take legal actions against Internet advertisers of health products that run false or misleading advertisements.

How can you be a wise consumer?

  • Pay attention to labels. If the instructions are in many languages or if measurements are in S.I. (metric) units, the product may be intended for sale in another country, not the U.S. This can mean the product does not meet U.S. requirements and may be of inferior quality.
  • Beware of cure-alls claims, amazing results, and independent research that the government is supposedly hiding. Unscrupulous merchants have found a new audience for miracle cure-alls on the Internet. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Ask the seller, “Has the FDA cleared or approved this product for sale in the United States?”
  • Talk to your healthcare professional about medical devices that you plan to buy on the Internet.
  • Beware of sites that do not include an address and telephone in the United States.
  • Check the FDA’s Buying Online Homepage at http://www.fda.gov/oc/buyonline/ for helpful information about buying medical products on the Internet and to notify the FDA about problem Web sites. You can also report problem Web sites by e-mail to webcomplaints@ora.fda.gov.