Information update

Archived – Consumers Warned Against Buying Fraudulent H1N1 Flu Virus Products Online

Starting date:
November 4, 2009
Posting date:
November 4, 2009
Type of communication:
Information Update
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Important Safety Information, Unauthorized products
General Public, Healthcare Professionals
Identification number:

Health Canada and the Competition Bureau are advising Canadians not to purchase unauthorized products that claim to fight or prevent the H1N1 flu virus, from the Internet or other sources. Health Canada is working with the Competition Bureau and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to address unauthorized products, including those with fraudulent claims to treat or prevent the H1N1 flu virus.

There are only three products authorized by Health Canada that should be used against the H1N1 flu virus: the H1N1 vaccine Arepanrix, and the antiviral drugs Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir). In addition, the distribution of 200,000 doses of unadjuvanted H1N1 vaccine Panvax from Australia has been authorized for use in pregnant women. Antivirals should only be purchased with a prescription from a health care practitioner who has examined the patient. The vaccines should be administered by a qualified health care practitioner, and are not available for sale to the public.

While there are legitimate Canadian Internet pharmacies, consumers should be aware of the risks associated with buying drugs online. For more information on the subject, Health Canada has published an It's Your Health article on Buying Drugs over the Internet. Health Canada will continue to monitor the Internet and to take action against Canadian Web sites selling unauthorized products for the treatment or prevention of the H1N1 flu virus, or any other health condition.

Combating health fraud also remains a priority for the Competition Bureau, a law enforcement agency that regularly monitors the Internet and takes enforcement action against false and misleading advertising. For information on the Bureau's activities in the area of health fraud, please visit the Competition Bureau Website.

Health Canada and the Competition Bureau would also like to share the following advice with Canadians to avoid becoming victims of health fraud:

  • Beware of ads that "promise too much."
  • Think twice before buying a product that claims it can "do it all."
  • Steer clear of a product that claims to be a "scientific breakthrough."
  • Don't be swayed by a questionable "success story" or so-called "patient testimonial."
  • Consult your health care practitioner before trying any new treatment.

Taking unapproved or counterfeit drugs could pose serious risks to health. These products may contain ingredients not listed on the label or dangerous additives, and could cause serious side effects. Authorized health products will display either an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN), or a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label.* This authorization indicates that the products have been assessed by Health Canada for safety, effectiveness and quality.

Canadians are encouraged to stay informed on the H1N1 flu virus by visiting the Public Health Agency of Canada's website, or calling the toll-free public information line at 1-800-454-8302.

Canadians with questions or complaints about counterfeit drugs and/or drugs purchased over the Internet can call Health Canada's toll-free line at 1-800-267-9675.

The Competition Bureau urges Canadians who come across a Web site promoting a treatment or cure that seems too good to be true, to call toll free (1-800-348-5358) or go to

Health Canada issued an advisory about the online purchase of Tamiflu in December 2005.

* The manufacturer of Arepanrix has been exempted from the DIN labelling requirement to avoid delays in the labelling and delivery of the vaccine.

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