The FDA issued a consumer advisory warning people to use caution when choosing an influenza remedy. As the terrible flu epidemic continues to ravish America, unapproved and fraudulent remedies promising relief began to surface.
A record number of flu-related hospitalizations combined with an ever-growing death count has led to internet searches for medications or homeopathic treatments to prevent cure influenza. “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,” warns FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.
Consumers must be aware of an online pharmacy’s legitimacy. Shady websites may offer antiviral drugs, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) at discounted prices or without a doctor’s prescription. The FDA warns against purchasing medications or treatments from websites with any of the following characteristics:
- Any site that sells prescription medications without requiring a script.
- No U.S. state-licensed pharmacist to answer consumer questions.
- The prices are significantly lower than they should be or they seem too good to be true.
- Any site located outside the U.S. or offer worldwide shipping.
Typically, the medications sold by these sites are dangerous because they might have either too much or too little of the required active ingredient to treat influenza or other diseases; they may not contain the correct active component; or contain wrong or harmful additives.
Moreover, no legally marketed over-the-counter (OTC) remedies sold within the U.S. will cure or prevent influenza. Unproven products have been located for sale both online and in retail stores. The following “flu claims may indicate that an OTC product is fraudulent:
- Reduces severity and length of the flu,
- Boosts your immunity naturally without a flu shot,
- [A] safe and effective alternative to the flu vaccine,
- Prevents catching the flu,
- [It is an] effective treatment for the flu,
- Faster recovery from the flu, or,
- Supports your body’s natural immune defenses to fight off the flu.”
The FDA recommends all remedies and prescriptions purchases should be made at a local state-licensed pharmacy. If shopping online for medication, choose a site that requires a valid script signed by a doctor, nurse practitioner, or another authorized prescriber and is licensed in the state where the consumer resides.
Recommended Self-Care Before and During Influenza Season
No remedy is as effective as taking care of one’s health the entire year. Doctor’s advise patients to eat a balanced diet, exercise at least four days each week, and sleep 7-9 hours nightly for a robust immune system.
Before and during flu season prevention and stable health is of utmost importance. This is especially true when a person is infected with a flu virus.
The number one step toward remaining influenza free is to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Each fall, flu shots are available for the type of infection they believe will strike, and they recommend receiving an inoculation at this time. However, winter is not too late for a flu shot.
Quit smoking. Studies have proved that smokers become infected with influenza more often than those who do not. Moreover, when they do become ill, smokers tend to have a more severe infection, and they are at a higher risk of death from the flu.
Reduce Chance of Influenza Infection
Keep in mind that it is easy to catch the flu from others who are ill since sneezes and coughs spread the illness from the virus-laden droplets. Furthermore, flu germs live up to eight hours on doorknobs, desks, counters, tables, faucets, etc.
Practice good hygiene. People need to wash their hands with soap and warm water. Use disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces both away from and at home.
Most important, remember the odds are a person will catch the flu. If this happens, look out for others. The virus can be spread up to a week after coming down with symptoms. While sharing is typically a good practice, sharing influenza is something best avoided.
By Cathy Milne
FDA: FDA warns of fraudulent and unapproved flu products
WebMD: Flu Treatment With Antiviral Drugs
WebMD: How to Prevent the Flu
Image Courtesy of Sam Phelps for RTI International’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License