Are My Medicines Safe?
When it comes to buying prescription medicines online, it's better to be safe than sorry.
BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy, a new public education campaign by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 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 icines 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.
❶ What are the risks of purchasing from a fake online pharmacy?
Buying prescription medicine from fraudulent online pharmacies can be dangerous, or even deadly. At best, counterfeit medicines are fakes of approved drugs and should be considered unsafe and ineffective. These medicines may be less effective or have unexpected side effects. In addition to health risks, most fraudulent online pharmacies may put your personal and financial information at risk. Some intentionally misuse the information you provide. These sites may infect your computer with viruses, and they may sell your information to other illegal websites and Internet scams.
❷ What are some of the warning signs of a fake online pharmacy?
Avoid online pharmacies that: 1. Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription
or by completing an online questionnaire 2. Offer discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true 3. Send unsolicited email or other spam
offering cheap medicine 4. Ship prescription drugs worldwide 5. State that the drugs will be shipped from a foreign country 6. Are located outside of the United States 7. Are not licensed by a state board of pharmacy in the
United States (or equivalent state health authority)
❸ What are some tips to identify safe online pharmacies?
To identify a safe online pharmacy, make sure that the online pharmacy: 1. Requires a valid prescription 2. Provides a physical address in the United States 3. Is licensed by the state board of pharmacy in your
state and the state where the pharmacy is operating 4. Has a state-licensed pharmacist to answer your question
❹ Is it okay to buy prescription medicine online from other countries?
FDA does not have jurisdiction of prescription medication from other countries; therefore, FDA cannot guarantee the safety or effectiveness of those medication. Medicines approved in other countries may have slight variations, or different ingredients, that could cause you to develop a resistance to your medicine or result in a misdiagnosis by your doctor. If you take more than one medicine, these differences could also cancel out the effects of your medicines or cause harmful interactions. Additionally, many of these illegal pharmacies use fake “storefronts” to make consumers think they come from countries with high safety standards, but the medicines could have been made anywhere.
❺ Aren’t most online pharmacies safe and legal?
No. Only 3 percent of online pharmacies reviewed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy are in compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws and practice standards.
❻ Isn’t it obvious which online pharmacies are fake and which are legitimate?
No, it may not be obvious that an online pharmacy is fake. Many illegal online pharmacies use fake “storefronts” to make you think they are real pharmacies. Fraudulent sellers run fake online pharmacy scams to exploit American consumers by pretending to be legitimate pharmacies offering prescription medicines for sale. However, the products they provide may be fake, expired and otherwise unsafe. In fact, many online pharmacy scams are so sophisticated that even health care professionals can have a hard time detecting illegal sites at first glance
❼ Why are consumers increasingly turning to online pharmacies for their medicines?
The Internet provides consumers with instant access to information and services, including online pharmacies for prescription medicines. Health insurance plans are encouraging home delivery of maintenance medications and use of pharmacy services online. As the cost of prescription medicine continues to increase, consumers may look for cost savings from online pharmacies to afford their medicines. In addition, many consumers value the convenience and privacy of purchasing their medicines online. For those consumers that may be considering purchasing from online sources that are not associated with health insurance plans or local pharmacy, these consumers need to know the risks of buying from fraudulent online pharmacies. -This information provided courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration