Online: Are My Medicines Safe?
When it comes to buying prescription medicines online, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Your Online Pharmacy, BeSafeRx: a new public Know education and Drug campaign Administration by the (FDA), U.S. Food is aimed at helping consumers understand and minimize the risks of buying medicines online. In a recent FDA survey of Internet users, 29 percent of participants reported ed they are unsure how to safely buy medicines online. Still, more than 20 percent of respondents reported using the Internet to buy prescription medicines. The Internet makes it easier for fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies to sell medicines to American consumers outside the system of federal and state safeguards that protect patients from inappropriate or unsafe medicines. Medicines you purchase from fraudulent online pharmacies may put your health, or the health of your family, at risk. "Many online consumers may not realize that they're buying from a fraudulent, illegal online pharmacy— and that the medicines they may receive could be counterfeit, contaminated, contain the wrong active ingredient, or not approved by FDA," says FDA pharmacist, Connie Jung, RPh., Ph.D. Medicines purchased from fraudulent online pharmacies may contain no active ingredient. (The active ingredients in medicines are responsible for their effects.) It's also possible that they'll have too much or too little of the active ingredient or the wrong ingredient entirely. These medicines may also be contaminated with harmful substances, or be past their expiration dates. As a result, says Jung, you may not receive the therapy you need. And, you may experience unexpected side effects and possibly get worse.
Some Red Flags
According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), the professional organization that represents the state boards of pharmacy (or equivalent state agencies) that are responsible for licensing pharmacies, only 3 percent of online websites reviewed appear to meet state and federal pharmacy laws. It's sometimes hard to tell that a website isn't trustworthy, says Jung. Many fraudulent online sellers use convincing marketing efforts and develop websites that look legitimate. Even careful consumers may be fooled. FDA is providing information through its BeSafeRx campaign to help consumers identify and avoid fraudulent pharmacy websites. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., says, "Fraudulent online pharmacies often offer deep discounts. If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are. BeSafeRx is designed to help patients learn how to avoid these risks and safely buy medicine online." Jung also warns consumers not to be tempted by the much lower prices than those charged for prescription drugs by a legitimate pharmacy. "They are a sure sign of a fraudulent, illegal online pharmacy, and the medicines you are getting could be harmful," Jung says.