Risks arise in purchasing prescriptions online

05/04/2013 7:15 AM

05/04/2013 7:16 AM

There are myriad reasons why American consumers are attracted to online pharmacies. Some seek lower prescription prices. Others seek the privacy of not having to deal with a pharmacist face-to-face. Some may want to avoid the cost of visiting a doctor in order to acquire a prescription. Then there are those who may be trying to acquire prescription drugs for recreational use or who have even become addicted to certain drugs.

Whatever the reason, the Better Business Bureau warns that some online pharmacies are dangerous to your health. While studies are showing significant increases in the number of people who are buying their medications online, many do not understand the real risks the practice is exposing them to.

Counterfeit drugs

Consumers would be wise to remember that anything that’s valuable, from $100 bills to designer handbags to prescription drugs, can be counterfeited. It is the fake, copycat drugs that pose serious health risks to online pharmacy customers. Though they may look like the real thing, counterfeit drugs may have any of these problems:

They are contaminated due to being manufactured at uninspected or illegitimate sites.

They may not help the condition or disease the medicine is meant to treat.

They contain the wrong active ingredient or the wrong amounts of ingredients, none of or too much of an active ingredient and may therefore lead to dangerous, unexpected side effects.

They may be placed in legitimate-appearing packaging.

Other potential problems

Medications sold online may be too old, too strong or too weak.

They may not be FDA-approved and may not be manufactured using proper, safe standards.

They may be unsafe to mix with other medicines or products, especially important considering there is no guarantee they even contain what they say they contain.

They may not be labeled, stored or shipped correctly.

How to safeguard your online drug purchasing

First and foremost, for purchasing prescription drugs on the Internet, get a prescription from your doctor. Your doctor’s intimate knowledge of your medical condition is vital to the decision-making process regarding which prescription drug will best benefit you. This is not a step that can be overlooked.

Look for a pharmacy website with which you are familiar. Verify the legitimacy of the site by looking to see if they display the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites’ (VIPPS) seal of approval. The VIPPS requires that online pharmacies be licensed in every state to which they ship drugs.

Additionally, their sites must meet standards for patient privacy, quality assurance, authentication, and security of prescriptions and communication between patients and pharmacists.

Beware of websites that:

• Do not require prescriptions.
• Sell “experimental” medications. They did not go through clinical trials and may be counterfeit or have potentially lethal side effects.
• Advertise to you in unsolicited e-mail “offers.” These sites may download malware on your computer or otherwise “phish” for your personal information.
• Do not provide U.S. contact information. In case of a problem or emergency, it is essential to be able to verify contact information.

You may want to check the company’s name or web address at www.legitscript.com. This is a verification service provided by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

There are legitimate mail-order options that can save money, but use caution when buying prescription drugs online. Your reasons may be valid but your health is in the balance.

Please do not be among those who harm rather than help themselves by buying drugs that only multiply your health problems. With questions or comments, contact your BBB at (800) 856-2417 or visit our website at www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

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