Are My Medicines Safe?

Wellness Update - - What Doctors Know And Your Should, Too! -

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

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