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Proceed with Caution: Internet Pharmacies

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on July 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm

If you’ve spent much time on the Internet, it’s likely you’ve stumbled into an offer for prescription drugs. You already know not to open spam emails, but you’ll want to proceed with caution ordering prescriptions online in general, as a lot of these pharmacies may not be legitimate or regulated. Here is what you need to know to make the right decisions.

Internet pharmacies tempt you by offering lower prices, convenience, and anonymity. Many times patients will be pulled in by the lure of cheaper drugs, or even look-a-like names or generics that aren’t yet approved. However, some of these “pharmacies” may actually be scams or may be distributing counterfeit, misbranded, or adulterated drugs. This means you risk getting a drug with no active ingredient, or products that are not tested or safe.

Currently there are an estimated 34,000 of these questionable online pharmacies. An analysis by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) found that out of 10,000 websites sampled, 97% did not comply with regulations, 88% did not require a prescription, and half of the medicines sold did not have FDA approval. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shut down close to 1700 illicit pharmacies and seized millions of dollars worth of illegitimate medications. However, many more pharmacies are located overseas, and therefore are harder to regulate.

There are some legitimate pharmacies that do sell and ship products online, and if you are going to use an Internet pharmacy, there are several things to look out for to ensure that you are protected. First, ensure that a valid prescription is required. Second, check to see if the pharmacy is appropriately registered. Most legitimate Internet pharmacies will have an accreditation by the NABP, known as the VIPPS, which shows that the pharmacy is properly licensed. A full list of accredited pharmacies can be found on the NABP website.

Till next week,

The GoodRx Pharmacist

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