Increased utilization of the HPV vaccine critical to preventing cervical and other cancers – National Consumers League

kb_headshot.jpgThe National Consumers League (NCL) has long been committed to fighting for vaccines and advocating for their widespread use. We are grateful to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) for its efforts to educate the public and healthcare providers–especially pediatricians–about the important role the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine plays in preventing cervical and other cancers. In the United States, HPV is estimated to cause nearly 99.7 percent of cervical cancers, 60 percent of throat cancers, 91 percent of anal cancers, 75 percent of vaginal cancers, 69 percent of vulvar cancers, and 63 percent of penile cancers.With these numbers, you would think that the public would be clamoring to get this cancer prevention vaccine. Unfortunately, nationwide usage of the HPV vaccine is alarmingly low. Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that all girls and boys receive the HPV vaccine at age 11 to 12 years, CDC data show that only 40 percent of teenage girls and 22 percent of teenage boys received the full recommended doses of the HPV vaccine in 2014 (3 doses over the course of 6 months), compared to the 80 to 90 percent vaccination rate for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and meningitis.

There are several reasons for this low utilization rate. Since the HPV vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted infection, pediatricians have been hesitant to discuss the vaccine with adolescent patients and their parents. Uptake has also been low because only Virginia, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. have mandates for the vaccine. In addition, parents still harbor misinformation about vaccines. A recent NCL survey found that 33 percent of parents mistakenly believe that vaccines can cause autism, despite numerous scientific studies finding no credible link.

Recognizing the enormous missed public health opportunity, our nation’s cancer doctors are refocusing the discussion on the cancer prevention benefits of the HPV vaccine and urging pediatricians and family physicians to recommend the vaccine to their patients. Studies show that a strong recommendation from a physician is the most important factor in whether children get the vaccine. NCL strongly supports this recommendation to aim the outreach at pediatricians–they alone can make the critical difference in getting millions more young patients vaccinated with the HPV shots.

Additional information on the HPV and other childhood vaccines is available on the CDC’s website. The National Consumers League will continue its work to educate the public about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and their important role in preventing serious and life-threatening diseases.

Protect your skin! Be sun-smart this summer – National Consumers League

If you ask Americans what the largest organ in their body is, my guess is that a good number would never think to say their skin. But not only is the skin our largest organ, it is a multifunctional one that plays a vital role in protecting our body. Our skin is our first line of defense; it provides a physical barrier between our internal organs and the environment, regulates our body temperature, and has billions of sensory nerves that are responsible for every sensation we feel.

Though our skin plays such an essential role in our health, most of us do not protect it as we should. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and worldwide, with over 3.5 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. In 2014, the U.S. Surgeon General declared skin cancer a public health crisis, as one in five Americans will develop it over the course of their lifetime, and incidence rates are steadily increasing. While there are genetic factors, such as race, gender, and family history that may predispose a person to skin cancer, ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the cause of the majority of cases and is a proven human carcinogen. In fact, approximately 90 percent of skin cancer cases are associated with UV radiation from the sun or sun lamps.

The good news is that UV radiation is the most preventable cause of skin cancer, and there are plenty of things you and your family can do to protect yourselves from the sun. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), four out of five cases of skin cancer can be prevented by practicing sun safe behaviors. Perhaps the most common of these behaviors is wearing sunscreen, which works by absorbing and reflecting UV rays before they reach your skin. Each sunscreen has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF), which is a measure of its ability to block harmful UV radiation. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that a broad- spectrum SPF 15 sunscreen should be used, many other organizations recommend using a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen, including the American Cancer Society and the National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention.  For recreational activities, a waterproof sunscreen with a higher SPF (SPF ≥ 30) is recommended, and is usually labeled with how long it is effective while swimming or sweating (usually 40 or 80 minutes). Those that are labeled “broad spectrum” are best, as they protect you against both types (UVA and UVB) of UV rays.

Individuals with fair skin and lighter hair generally require sunscreens with a higher SPF, as they are typically more prone to skin damage. On the other hand, a common misconception is that individuals with darker skin do not need to wear sunscreen at all. This is false! Though darker skin tones may be less prone to sunburn, tanning is also evidence of sun damage. There are also other risks associated with UV exposure including premature skin aging, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and of course, skin cancer.

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding which sunscreen is best for you and your family. For example, children have different sun protection needs than adults. Questions you may want to consider before choosing a sunscreen are:

  • Will your sun exposure be incidental or continuous?
  • Do you have sensitive skin?
  • Is your skin allergy or acne prone?
  • Do you have dry or oily skin?
  • Does your family have a history of skin cancer?
  • What texture sunscreen would you prefer?

Thankfully, there are a broad range of sunscreens on the market that are safe and effective. Between sprays, creams, sticks, mineral sunscreens, or sunscreens built in to other cosmetic products, it is more than possible to find one that can accommodate your personal preferences and lifestyle. The Skin Cancer Foundation provides a wealth of information on how to choose the right sunscreen for your skin type, and you should feel free to ask your dermatologist for advice as well.

That being said, the only way your sunscreen can truly be effective is to use it as directed. Studies show that most consumers apply less than half of the amount of sunscreen needed to receive the SPF on the label. So whichever sunscreen you choose, be sure to read and follow the directions for appropriate application. Below are a few general tips on how to apply different types of sunscreens:

  • For lotions, use a golf ball size amount to cover your body.
  • For sprays, hold can/bottle 4-6 inches away from your skin, spray until it glistens, and gently spread to cover your skin evenly.
  • For stick sunscreens, apply at least 3-4 passes over the skin.
  • For your face, use an amount equal to the size of a small coin.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends the following to protect yourself from the sun:
  • Seek shade and limit your time in the midday sun, as the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • When going outside, protect your skin with clothing such as wide-brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts, and UV blocking sunglasses.
  • Use extra caution near water, sand, or snow as these surfaces reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
  • Do not go to tanning salons. Just like the sun, UV light from tanning beds can cause wrinkling and age spots and can lead to skin cancer. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product, and continue to use your sunscreen with it.
  • Regularly check your skin for signs of skin cancer. Checking and knowing your skin is a key factor in detecting skin cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages. If you notice something out of the ordinary with your skin, do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider or dermatologist.

As temperatures rise and we begin to plan our vacations for some much needed fun in the sun, practicing sun safe behaviors is of the utmost importance. It is never too late to integrate sun safe practices into your life and introduce these practices to your family. HAPPY SUMMER!

NCL letter to House opposing anti-Lifeline bill – National Consumers League

June 21, 2016

The Honorable Paul D. Ryan
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Democratic Leader
United States House of Representatives
H-204, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515


RE: National Consumers League opposition to H.R. 5525, the “End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act of 2016

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:

On behalf of the National Consumers League,[1] I am writing today to share our concerns regarding H.R. 5525, the End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act of 2016,” which is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives today. The bill, sponsored by Representative Austin Scott, would  undermine the ability of the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline low-income subsidy program to meet the needs of millions of low-income consumers to access affordable broadband service. We know that the Internet has dramatically enhanced our society, but has also widened the opportunity gap between those who have broadband and those who do not in key areas such as employment, education and healthcare access. At a time when the Lifeline program is undergoing significant modernization, now is not the time to arbitrarily constrain its budget and prevent it from supporting mobile voice and broadband service. We therefore urge you and your colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to oppose this bill.

Organizations from across the consumer, public interest and civil rights communities support the transition of Lifeline to supporting broadband. NCL agrees; we recognize that supporting access to the Internet for low-income consumers is critical to addressing the persistent wage, education and opportunity gaps that exist in our society. As we noted in our filing to the FCC, employers and government agencies are increasingly shifting their application processes for essential benefits programs online to an effort to efficiency. Lack of access to broadband makes it harder for low-income consumers and their families to stay in touch with job opportunities, family support networks and educational institutions.

Government at all levels has historically supported programs that help low-income consumers access to critical infrastructure like water, electricity and telephone service. Broadband Internet access should be no different. 

We urge you to oppose any effort to constrain the FCC’s goal of providing affordable broadband service to millions of low-income consumers. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you in more detail. Thank you for your time and consideration.


John Breyault
Vice President, Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud National Consumers League
Phone: (202) 207-2819

cc: Members of the U.S. House of Representatives

[1] The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is the nation’s pioneering consumer organization.  Our non-profit mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit  

Geneva convenes: COPOLCO or Committee on Consumer Safety – National Consumers League

This week, I’ve been in Geneva with an international group of consumer experts and advocates who are members of COPOLCO, or the Committee on Consumer Policy. COPOLCO is the consumer component of the International Standards Organization or ISO. I serve as Vice Chair of the U.S. consumer entity—within the American National Standard Institute, which is the official American member of ISO—and am here representing ANSI, along with my product safety mentor and former Consumer Union colleague, Dr. David Pittle.

So what are standards, why do we need them, and why are they important to consumers?

International standards make things work. They give world-class specifications for products, services, and systems, to ensure quality, safety, and efficiency. Imagine a car built without safety standards—without safe tires or with a loose steering wheel. Or a building without any structural safety or without a proper foundation. The car would undoubtedly crash, and the building would collapse. I should note that in the United States, many standards protecting consumers are drafted and enforced by federal agencies like NHTSA, CPSC, FDA, USDA, EPA, etc.

Standards are also instrumental in facilitating international trade. ISO has published more than 21,000 International Standards; all are voluntary standards, but they are specifications that are agreed to by stakeholders from around the world. For developing countries, these that may be all they have for standards. And these standards cover almost every industry, from technology, to food safety, to agriculture, and healthcare. ISO International Standards affect everyone, everywhere.

As important as standards are, consumer participation in the setting of these standards is equally critical. Consumers are the very people affected by products and services and how they work—or don’t. There are two distinct groups participating in this: those who work for the country’s standard setting government agency, and those (like me) who come from a private consumer organization.

What I find most exciting is meeting my consumer counterparts from around the world and rolling up our sleeves and drafting standards together.

I learn a lot from colleagues from developed countries who have been attending these meetings for decades—Australia, Western Europe, and Canada come to mind—about the standards they are working on. Representatives from the UK today described the battle consumers had with energy companies who claimed they owned the meters and therefore the data from those meters. The consumer representatives said disagreed and fought back, arguing that the data is private, personal information that belongs to the consumers, not the energy companies.

I also learn a lot from meeting colleagues from developing countries. At lunch today, two representatives from the government of Panama told us there were no consumer standards in Panama until 1999. I found that hard to believe, but they assured us it was true. They also told us that every time bread is sold in Panama it is weighed to prevent fraud!

Today we had a robust discussion on whether the sharing economy—ride sharing and shared housing rentals—should be subject to international standards. We also discussed whether to develop standards on financial literacy for youth, an issue near and dear to NCL.

Attending this conference are representatives from Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, Columbia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Korea, Fiji, South Africa, Italy, Namibia, Australia, Sweden, Canada, Greece, and all of Northern Europe. I’m sure I’ve missed a few countries, but this gives you a sense of the breadth and depth of participation. That said, there are many more consumer representatives who might have come if they had the resources to travel and the support of their country. We discussed how to find that support here today as well.

But for the officials that are here, the engagement of their countries in developing standards for safety and quality is incredibly important for the world’s consumers, and it’s an honor to be part of the process.

National Consumers League calls on CPSC for safer table saw standards – National Consumers League

June 15, 2016

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Today the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization is calling on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for the implementation of a requirement that table saws sold in the United States be equipped with technology to prevent serious injuries. Citing CPSC’s own data that indicates Americans suffer 40,000 emergency room-treated table saw injuries every year—about 4,000 of which are amputations—the National Consumers League (NCL) reiterated concerns it first raised before the Commission more than five years ago.

“Tens of thousands of people suffer similar injuries every year working on table saws that are more dangerous than they need to be,” said Karin Bolte, NCL director of health policy, who spoke before the Commission today. “The CPSC has the power to put an end to these unnecessary tragedies. But it must move quickly because every day brings 10 more avoidable amputations.”

In 2003, a petition was filed with the CPSC asking the agency to enact a requirement that every table saw sold in the U.S. be equipped with “active injury mitigation” (AIM) technology that would prevent serious injuries and amputations by stopping the moving saw blade when it comes in contact with, or in close proximity to, human flesh. AIM technology has been proven to virtually eliminate serious injuries resulting from contact with a spinning table saw blade.

In 2010, after the CPSC had not moved forward on a table saw standard in seven years, NCL wrote a letter urging the Commission to take “speedy action” on table saw safety. NCL’s Greenberg also worked with table saw victims from across the country on a public education campaign highlighting the need for a table saw safety regulation. Following NCL’s campaign, in 2011, the Commission voted unanimously to begin the rulemaking process for a table saw safety standard.  

“Every year the CPSC fails to act is another year in which tens of thousands of avoidable injuries occur,” said Bolte. “NCL has a simple message today: CPSC must act with urgency to finally adopt a mandatory safety standard with Active Injury Mitigation technology and thereby put an end to the devastating injuries caused by table saws.”

Read the full testimony here (PDF).


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Greenberg testimony to FDA on OTC monograph user fees – National Consumers League

June 10, 2016

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL) commends FDA for holding this public meeting to gather stakeholder feedback on proposed OTC Monograph User Fees. My name is Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL. Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League has long been concerned with ensuring the safety of foods and drugs. Among NCL’s top priorities are ensuring the safety, effectiveness, and appropriate use of both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and medication adherence, which we’ve helped advance through our Script Your Future Campaign.

The FDA’s Federal Register notice states that in the OTC market, there are approximately 800 active ingredients for more than 1,400 different therapeutic uses. In addition, about $32 billion in OTC medicines were sold in the US last year, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, up 4.5 percent from 2010. For the more than 240 million Americans who use OTC medicines every year, these drugs undoubtedly play a vital role in keeping consumers healthy and helping them to feel better when they’re sick.

However, it appears that with the burgeoning OTC marketplace, the FDA is seriously under-resourced, with only 18 full-time employees (FTEs) assigned to oversee the entire OTC market. This is the same number of FTEs it takes to review one novel prescription drug application. 

While the FDA has made determinations about the safety and efficacy of the active ingredients in thousands of products through the OTC monograph review process, there are still many pending monographs for which the ingredients have not been determined to be GRASE – generally recognized as safe and effective for their intended uses.

FDA estimates that at the current funding level, it would take decades to review and finalize the spectrum of OTC drug monographs that are currently in non-final status. The agency is asking for additional resources to finalize pending OTC monographs and address safety issues faster and more efficiently. Finalizing FDA review of these ingredients, as well as devoting additional resources to expeditiously modify labels for new safety concerns, would better serve the public. In addition, a user fee program could benefit both consumers and industry by allowing for more timely review of innovations and new ingredients, ultimately leading to the availability of new and improved OTC options. For these reasons, NCL agrees that it makes sense to create a pathway for the FDA to have additional resources to manage this growing number of OTC products.

With regard to the implementation of OTC user fees, NCL recognizes that the ingredient-based OTC monograph review process may not lend itself to user fee assessment. FDA should consider implementing set user fees such as product and establishment fees that would generate a steady, predictable source of funds for the agency.

That said, we do have a few concerns if the agency moves forward with this proposal. First, we would like to ensure that the FDA take care not to impose burdensome fees on newer or smaller innovative firms that may find it difficult to absorb the fees. Perhaps a tiered fee system should be contemplated for such companies. Secondly, we are mindful of the concerns expressed by some that because industry pays the user fees, industry thereby controls the agency’s agenda and process. We urge the FDA to make it abundantly clear that it will act independent of industry influence and always work to advance the public’s access to safe and effective OTC products.

As for performance goals as part of an OTC user fee program, NCL would like to see FDA commit to initiating a certain number of OTC monograph finalizations per year and recommend the publication of an annual report on progress in addressing the OTC monograph backlog, including highlighting the approval of new and innovative treatments.

We commend the FDA for soliciting the views of the many stakeholders who will be affected by this program and particularly appreciate giving consumer organizations the opportunity to share our views. We look forward to working with the FDA and with the OTC industry, as appropriate, to design a balanced and fair user fee program for OTC drugs.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

National Consumers League statement on Myspace data breach – National Consumers League

June 7, 2016

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—In the wake of a reportedly record-setting breach of 360 million accounts at Myspace, the National Consumers League is advising current and former users of the social networking site to change the passwords on sensitive accounts, particularly if they reused their Myspace account credentials across multiple websites. NCL is also advising Myspace users to remain vigilant for possible phishing attacks in the coming weeks.

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, NCL vice president of public policy, telecommunications, and fraud:

“The Myspace data breach is possibly the largest password breach in history and comes directly on the heels of a large data breach at LinkedIn where 167 million account credentials were compromised. In the coming weeks, consumers should be on the lookout for phishing emails which are typically utilized by hackers in the aftermath of data breaches. These emails may bear the official Myspace logo, and will lure individuals  to fake websites to collect further personal data in the hopes of stealing their identity, or will direct users to click on virus laden links by posing as a breach notification email.”

“The recent slew of data breaches highlights the continued necessity for Congressional action to keep consumers’ data safe. NCL continues to urge Congress to pass long-stalled legislation that creates a floor of protections for consumers and require organizations to notify data breach victims as soon as a breach occurs so that consumers can take the necessary steps to protect their identity.” 

To safeguard their data, NCL recommends that consumers take steps to protect themselves including:

  1. Do not reuse passwords across different websites.  Reusing passwords allows hackers access to several accounts should one account be compromised by a data breach.
  2. If old accounts at websites like Myspace are no longer being used, it is advisable to delete them. To learn how to delete a Myspace account, click here.
  3. Opt-in to multi-factor authentication whenever possible. is a good resource for finding out which services offer multi-factor authentication to their users.
  4. Use strong, tough to break passwords. Strong passwords are longer and utilize both uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers.

NCL’s flagship consumer fraud education website,, features a “Latest Breaches” section, a resource where consumers can find dependable information about particular breaches, including links to official information from the breached entities and tips to protect sensitive data after a breach. Check it out here.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

NCL joins education campaign to help seniors safely buy drugs online – National Consumers League

counterfeit_Drugs_icon.jpgThis week, the National Consumers League (NCL) joined forces with the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global), and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) in launching a campaign to educate seniors and their caregivers about the health and financial risks associated with buying prescription medicines from illegal or rogue online pharmacies.Over the last century, the number of Americans aged 65 and older has increased exponentially, and studies show that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. While the elderly are living longer, many older adults depend on a multitude of prescription drugs to maintain their quality of life and to combat many of the problems that may arise with aging, such as chronic diseases. Approximately nine out of 10 older adults have at least one chronic disease, and nine out of 10 older Americans rely on at least one prescription medication on a regular basis. As adults 65 and older account for over one-third of all prescription medications and with many seniors living on fixed incomes, it is not surprising that they are looking for opportunities to purchase their necessary medications at cheaper prices.

Unfortunately, seniors are particularly vulnerable to unknowingly purchasing counterfeit drugs in an effort to find a more convenient and affordable means to obtain the medications they need. Of course, there are many online pharmacies that operate legally and are perfectly safe. However, there are many rogue online pharmacy sites that sell potentially dangerous, or even deadly, drugs that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness.

Many of these sites operate under the guise of being a legal, safe, and often cheaper alternative to purchasing a prescription from a retail or mail-order pharmacy. But in reality, they often sell drugs that contain the wrong active ingredient, the wrong amount of the active ingredient, no active ingredient at all, harmful ingredients, or even poisons. As an increasing number of older adults are being introduced to the Internet, it is important that they are educated on the risks associated with purchasing their prescriptions online.

To fill this knowledge gap, the National Consumers League is pleased to be collaborating with the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies to not only educate seniors and their caregivers about online pharmacies, but also empower them to make safe and informed decisions when shopping for prescription drugs online. Counterfeit drugs have long been an area of great concern for NCL, and we are enthusiastic about contributing to this joint effort to keep older Americans safe online.

To stay safe, seniors and their caregivers should avoid websites that:

  1. Do not require a valid prescription.
  2. Allow you to buy prescription medications by simply completing an online questionnaire.
  3. Offer drastically discounted prices.
  4. Do not have a licensed pharmacist available for consultation.
  5. Do not display a physical street address.
  6. Offer to ship prescriptions from other countries to the U.S.
  7. Are not verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

Consumers are encouraged to buy from sites ending in .pharmacy, which are verified by NABP. In addition, online pharmacies that display the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal have successfully undergone NABP’s rigorous screening process.

For more information about illegal online pharmacies and counterfeit medicines, consumers should visit For additional information on health fraud and tips on how to protect yourself from the dangers of counterfeit drugs, visit

Rising drug costs attract seniors to illegal online pharmacies: ASOP Global, CSIP, and NCL join forces to keep older Americans safe – National Consumers League

June 6, 2016

Contact: ECI Communications, Caren Kagan Evans,, 301-998-6114, 301-467-6337 (cell), or ECI Communications, Rachel Evans,, 301-998-6114, 301-467-6167 (cell), or NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—With an estimated 49.5% growth of the U.S. senior population by 2030 and out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries skyrocketing*, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global), Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and National Consumers League (NCL) are joining forces to educate seniors and their caregivers about the health and financial risks associated with buying prescription medicines from illegal or rogue online pharmacies.

“10,000 people turn 65 years of age every day in the U.S.,” explained ASOP Global Executive Director Libby Baney. “Escalating costs for hundreds of drugs prescribed to treat chronic conditions not necessarily covered fully by Medicare make it more likely that seniors, who often are living on fixed incomes, will turn to the Internet to look for less expensive options. For twelve specialty drugs used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Hepatitis C, Medicare Part D enrollees face at least $4,000 and as much as nearly $12,000 in annual out-of-pocket costs in 2016 for one drug alone,” she added.

A recent review of more than 11,000 websites selling prescription medications online to U.S. consumers found approximately 96% do not comply with U.S. laws and 50% of medicines sold online are fake or counterfeit.  They contain little or no active ingredients and/or dangerous and often deadly poisons, including floor wax, mercury, concrete, chalk, boric acid, road tar, paint or anti-freeze. Interpol estimates that counterfeit medicines are responsible for up to one million deaths annually worldwide.

“Our research shows that lower prices and convenience of shopping online are the two biggest factors driving consumers to the Internet, making older Americans easy targets for illegal online drug sellers offering ‘too good to be true’ discounts for fake or unapproved versions of the lifesaving medicines they depend on,” said Marjorie Clifton, executive director of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies. “The criminal networks who develop fake websites have become very savvy in creating sites that are difficult to detect by even the most sophisticated consumers and law enforcement. This is why it is imperative that consumers are informed and our organizations are working together to do everything they can to shut down illegitimate sites.”

The majority of older Americans own a computer, smartphone or tablet and almost 60% of older Americans use the Internet on a regular basis.  Financial scams aimed at seniors, including counterfeit medicines sold online, are so prevalent that they are now considered “the crime of the 21st century” by the National Council on Aging.

“In addition to the health risks associated with buying prescription medicines online, the threat is further exacerbated by the fact that unknowing seniors provide these criminals with personal and credit card information, putting them at risk for fraud and identity theft,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League.

* In a 2016 AARP report, the average cost for a year’s supply of the 622 prescription medicines most widely used by people over the age of 65 doubled between 2007 and 2013 to more than $11,000 – almost half of the median income for Medicare beneficiaries. 

How to stay safe online

To stay safe seniors and their caregivers should avoid websites that: (1) do not require a valid prescription; (2) sell prescription medications simply by completing an online questionnaire; (3) offer drastically discounted prices; (4) do not have a licensed pharmacist available for consultation; (5) do not display a physical street address; (6) offer to ship prescriptions from other countries to the U.S.; and (7) are not verified by the National Association of State Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

Consumers are encouraged to buy from sites ending in .pharmacy (e.g., “, which are verified by NABP.  In addition, online pharmacies that display the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) Seal have successfully undergone NABP’s rigorous screening process.

For more information about illegal online pharmacies and counterfeit medicines, consumers should visit  For help paying for prescriptions, seniors or caregivers should contact Needy Meds or the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.


About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global)

Founded in 2009, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies is an international 501(c)(4) social welfare organization dedicated to protecting patient safety globally and ensuring access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies in accordance with applicable laws.

About the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP)

The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) is a non-profit organization founded in 2011 and represents the technology sector and Internet intermediaries.  CSIP’s mission is to promote best practices in the technology and commerce industries and educate consumers about safe shopping online.

About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League (NCL) has been representing consumers and workers on marketplace and workplace issues since 1899. One of NCL’s long-term projects is the Fraud Center (, which was launched in 1992 to give consumers the information they need to avoid becoming victims of telemarketing and Internet fraud.

Teens: avoid this year’s most dangerous summer work – National Consumers League

92_help_wanted.jpgIt’s that time of year again: teens are starting their summer jobs. Having a job can be an important part of youth development, but the worst work – the ones on this year’s Five Most Dangerous Teen Jobs – should be avoided! Jobs for teens are an important part of growing up and becoming an adult, providing both needed income and teaching valuable work skills. According to research, teen jobs increase future earnings and also decrease the likelihood the working teen will drop out of school.

Jobs for teens are an important part of growing up and becoming an adult, providing both needed income and teaching valuable work skills. According to research, teen jobs increase future earnings and also decrease the likelihood the working teen will drop out of school. The National Consumers League (NCL) provides its annual update of its Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens to help teenagers and their parents make safer job choices and to increase awareness of job dangers they may encounter.

Each day in America, a teen is hurt on the job every 9 minutes. In a typical year, a U.S. child dies nearly every 14 days at work.

NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens in 2016:

  • Tobacco Harvester
  • Agriculture: Harvesting Crops and Using Machinery
  • Traveling Youth Sales Crews
  • Construction and Height Work
  • Outside Helper: Landscaping, Grounds keeping and Lawn Service

These five jobs hold special dangers for working youth. The dangers of each job are explored in the report and real life examples of what can go wrong when teens are not protected in the workplace are given. Agriculture, construction, landscaping, and machinery operators all experience much higher occupational injury and fatality rates. And traveling sales crews expose vulnerable working teens to many dangers including vehicle accidents, arrest, sexual exploitation, and workplace violence.

Teen workers are dying

  • Farmhand Heather Marie Barley, 17, of Buckley, Michigan died suddenly while working on a hog farm in December 2015. Elevated levels of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide were suspected to have come from a steam generator connected to a pressure washer.
  • On his first day on the job feeding tree limbs into a wood chipper, in December 2015, 19-year-old Mason Cox in Gastonia, North Carolina died instantly when his body was pulled into the chipper. His employer was so disturbed by the incident that he had a heart attack.
  • December 2015: 19-year-old Oscar Martin-Refugio was shot in the heart by robbers as he worked in a Bridgeport, Connecticut pizza shop. He died soon after.
  • Grant Thompson, 18, died from a snakebite while working in his parents’ pet shop in Austin, Texas in July 2015.
  • In October 2014, 18-year-old Jeremy McSpadden, Jr., of Spokane Valley, Washington was working as an actor at a Halloween haunted hayride when died tragically after losing his footing and falling under the rear wheel of a bus. 

Tips for teen workers

NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens provides practical tips for teenagers considering their job choices and practical suggestions for parents so that they can talk to their sons and daughters and instill a sense of safety consciousness that will help protect them on the job, empowering them to ask for needed safety training and say “no” when dangerous tasks are requested.

Say “no” to jobs that involve:

  • door-to-door sales, especially out of the youth’s neighborhood;
  • long-distance traveling away from parental supervision;
  • extensive driving or being driven;
  • driving forklifts, tractors, and other potentially dangerous vehicles;
  • the use of dangerous machinery;
  • the use of chemicals;
  • working in grain storage facilities; and
  • work on ladders or work that involves heights where there is a risk of falling.

Know the legal limits
To protect young workers like you, state and federal laws limit the hours you can work and the kinds of work you can do. For state and federal child labor laws, visit Youth Rules.

Play it safe
Always follow safety training. Working safely and carefully may slow you down, but ignoring safe work procedures is a fast track to injury. There are hazards in every workplace — recognizing and dealing with them correctly may save your life.

Ask questions
Ask for workplace training — like how to deal with irate customers or how to perform a new task or use a new machine. Tell your supervisor, parent, or other adult if you feel threatened, harassed, or endangered at work.

Make sure the job fits
If you can only work certain days or hours, if you don’t want to work alone, or if there are certain tasks you don’t want to perform, make sure your employer understands and agrees before you accept the job.

Trust your gut
Following directions and having respect for supervisors are key to building a great work ethic. However, if someone asks you to do something that feels unsafe or makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many young workers are injured — or worse — doing work that their boss asked them to do.

One safety expert suggests that if a job requires safety equipment other than a hard hat, goggles, or gloves, it’s not appropriate for minors.

The CDC has advised NCL that whenever machinery is located in the workplace, youth workers need to exercise extra caution.