Buying prescription medications from online pharmacies may seem cheap and easy. But cheap and easy shouldn’t be your top priority when it comes to your health. While there are plenty of legitimate U.S. Internet pharmacies that follow the law and put public safety first, there are many more that don’t.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on illegal Internet pharmacies and notes that the FDA says “legitimate online pharmacies are located in the US, licensed by the state in which they operate, and require a written prescription from a doctor.”
FDA spokesman Christopher Kelly said the “problem with getting medications outside the control of the FDA is that you don’t know what you’re getting,” and the drugs may be “counterfeit, mislabeled, adulterated or contaminated.”
Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, said, “We have found that 92 percent of Web-site pharmacies are illegal or in violation of FDA regulations.”
Kelly adds, “Unless the pharmacy is part of the closed US supply chain, consumers are engaging in risky behavior and cannot be certain about what they are purchasing.”
“We have found that 92 percent of Web-site pharmacies are illegal or in violation of FDA regulations,” says Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), which includes the California State Board of Pharmacy in Sacramento.
According to the report in the Union Tribune, some Internet pharmacies, along with services that offer verification and price comparisons of online pharmacies (such as Pharmacy Checker),tell consumers that it’s permissible to buy prescription medications from countries outside the United States as long as it’s not a controlled substance and no more than a three-month supply.
Whoa. Not so fast, says the FDA.
“Unless the pharmacy is part of the closed U.S. supply chain, consumers are engaging in risky behavior and cannot be certain about what they are purchasing,” Kelly says.
According to the Union Tribune, here’s how you can keep your internet drug shopping both legal and safe, here’s what to look for:
- It must be located in the United States.
- It must be licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the Web site operates. Check out the NABP Web site, nabp.info for a list of state boards of pharmacy.
- It should have a licensed pharmacist available for phone consultations.
- It must require a written prescription from your doctor or other health-care professional. The prescription can be mailed or faxed to the online pharmacy. If a fax copy is accepted, the pharmacy will call your doctor to verify the prescription.
- Web sites that offer an “online diagnosis” or “online consultation” with a doctor (if there even is a real doctor on the other end) are not the same thing as a written prescription from your doctor.
- A legitimate pharmacy will make you submit a detailed medical history with all medications you’re currently taking to help prevent harmful drug interactions.
- It should clearly state the payment and shipping fees on the sites.
- It must use secure or encrypted Web-site connections for transactions involving medical or financial information.
- It should display the NABP’s Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal to indicate that those Internet pharmacies that apply have met state licensing and FDA requirements. To check out Web sites that are VIPPS-approved, visit here.
- There are some legitimate Internet pharmacies that are not accredited by VIPPS, often because they haven’t applied for approval, which entails a fee. To find these legitimate online pharmacies, check out legitscript.com, the only free pharmacy verification service that adheres to most NABP standards and FDA regulations.
- It should not require you to sign a waiver that forces you to give up all rights before providing medication.
- It should list a phone number and street address on the Web site. Drug outlets that allow customers to communicate with them only by e-mail should be avoided.