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FDA: Beware of Fraudulent Flu Cures and Treatments

Fraud alert emblem

This year’s brutal flu season is finally beginning to ease up. But scammers selling dangerous or unapproved flu treatments are still in high gear. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday released a list of signs consumers should watch out for.

The FDA warns consumers to beware of unproven flu treatments. The agency also warns of websites masquerading as legitimate pharmacies. It says they often sell counterfeit antivirals.

“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,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottleib said.

Products sold online may claim they can cure or prevent the flu. These claims should raise a red flag for consumers. Over-the-counter products may ease flu symptoms like fever, achy muscles or congestion. But the FDA points out that no over-the-counter drugs can prevent, treat or cure the flu.

Fake Flu Treatment Claims to Watch Out For

The FDA urges consumers to look out for signs that an over-the-counter flu treatment is fraudulent. The FDA says treatments that make certain claims can waste money and even endanger lives.

Fake flu claims health scammers may use include:

  • Boosts your immunity naturally without a flu shot
  • Effective treatment for the flu
  • Faster recovery from the flu
  • Prevents catching the flu
  • Reduces severity and length of the flu
  • Safe and effective alternative to the flu vaccine
  • Supports your body’s natural immune defenses to fight off the flu

Beware of Online Pharmacies Promising Flu Remedies

Online pharmacies may claim to sell treatments like Tamiflu without a prescription. The FDA warns that such claims suggest fraud.

Fake pharmacies may sell counterfeit drugs. These may contain no active ingredient, the wrong ingredients or harmful substances.

Certain signs can give away a fraudulent online pharmacy. According to the FDA:

  • Legitimate pharmacies will never sell prescription drugs without a prescription.
  • Licensed online pharmacies have licensed pharmacists available to answer people’s questions. If a website doesn’t have one, it’s likely fake.
  • Pharmacies located outside the U.S. or that ship worldwide are also suspect.
  • If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Steer clear.

Last modified: March 5, 2018


Terry Turner is an Emmy-winning, former television journalist. He is an associate member of the American Bar Association, the ABA’s Health Law group and a member of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates. He holds six certificates in Health Literacy for Healthcare Professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a Washington-based investigative reporter, he routinely reported on health and medical policy issues before Congress, the FDA and other federal agencies. Terry received his B.A. in Media Arts from Lyon College.

Hide Sources

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, March 2). FDA Warns of Fraudulent and Unapproved Flu Products. Retrieved from
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, March 2). Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.