With everything being online nowadays, there are many things you can do from the comfort of your own home including buying prescription medications online.
There are many online pharmacies and retail store websites that offer prescription services online at your convenience. Although ordering prescription medications online may be convenient, many people wonder is it safe?
To protect you and your loved ones, you should always exercise caution when purchasing prescription drugs online.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against rogue online pharmacies that claim to sell prescription drugs at highly discounted prices without requiring a valid prescription. Often, these online rogue pharmacies sell counterfeit and unapproved prescription medications which are very dangerous and can put your health at risk.
So how can you tell if an online pharmacy is legal and safe?
Keep reading to help you learn and identify the signs of a rogue online pharmacy versus a safe online pharmacy and learn the 10 tips on buying drugs online safely for beginners.
10 Tips on Buying Drugs Online Safely For Beginners
Learning the signs of a rogue online pharmacy will help you identify and avoid purchasing any prescription medication from them.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50% of prescription drugs for sale on the internet are counterfeit even though the online pharmacies are perceived to be legal and legitimate.
In a survey conducted by the American National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), out of 11,000 online pharmacies, 96% of these online pharmacies did not comply with the NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards.
They also did not comply with the U.S. state and federal laws and most of these pharmacies claimed to be based in Canada, but in reality, were illegally operating from different countries and offshore locations.
With that being said, here are the signs of a rogue online pharmacy.
Signs of a Rogue Online Pharmacy
An online pharmacy is most likely fake and illegal if:
- No valid prescription is required
- No licensed pharmacist is available to answer your questions
- Prices are extremely low seeming too good to be true
- Shipping worldwide is an available option
- The location is outside of the U.S. or Canada
- Spam floods your inbox offering cheap medication
It is very important that you do not purchase any prescription medication from an online pharmacy that show any of those signs.
Doing so can put your health at risk and is very dangerous because the medication they are selling usually does not contain the right active ingredient needed to treat your condition. Many times, the medication that these rogue pharmacies are selling has either too much or too little of the active ingredient that you may need or it may contain the wrong or other harmful ingredients.
The active ingredient is the most important as its essential in making the medicine work effectively to treat your condition or illness.
Therefore, if you take any medication that contains harmful ingredients, it can cause a reaction and have an adverse effect on you and your body ultimately resulting in dangerous side effects, allergic reactions, or other serious health problems.
According to WHO, the annual death toll from counterfeit prescription drugs is around 1 million each year. In countries in Africa, more than 200,000 people die each year as a result of counterfeit antimalarial drugs which has effected people receiving proper treatment to fight the debilitating disease.
Also, it’s important to remember that the prescription medication purchased from a rogue pharmacy may not have been stored properly in the right condition.
Now that you are aware of the signs of a fake online pharmacy, it will make it easier for you to identify the signs of a safe online pharmacy.
Here are 10 tips that can help you buy prescription medication safely on the internet:
1. Make sure the pharmacy requires a prescription and has an available pharmacist for questions
One of the first major signs that you are buying online prescription drugs from a safe and reputable online pharmacy is that it requires a valid prescription from your doctor or another licensed healthcare provider.
There should also be a licensed pharmacist available to speak with you if you have any questions about any of your medications.
If the website that you are browsing through does not require a prescription and does not have an available pharmacist ready to chat with patients about certain medications, chances are that they are more than likely a fraud and running a scam.
Report a website that you think is illegally selling human drugs, animal drugs, medical devices, biological products, foods, dietary supplements, or cosmetics.
If you come across an online pharmacy as such consider reporting them to the Federal Drug and Administration’s MedWatch.
Through the FDA MedWatch, you can report any website that you think is illegally selling prescription drugs, medical devices, foods, dietary supplements, cosmetics, or biological products. You can go online and fill out a report form and contact your local health professional for further medical advice.
2. Buy Only From Licensed Pharmacies in the U.S. or Canada
Any online pharmacy that is operating from outside of the United States or Canada that offers to ship your medications across the border is a huge red flag.
There are certain restrictions regarding shipping medications across the border and it is illegal to import prescription drugs across the border unless you are a drug manufacturer, a registered pharmacist, a licensed practitioner, or a resident of a foreign country while a visitor in Canada.
Many online pharmacies will claim to be licensed by a Canadian pharmacy regulatory authority but are not. In Canada specifically, the licensing of pharmacies and pharmacists are under the jurisdiction of authorities who are members of the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA).
Therefore, you should always only purchase prescription medications from licensed pharmacies in the United States or Canada.
3. Check The Physical Address of the Online Pharmacy
One way you can make sure that your online pharmacy is legitimate is by checking the physical address of the online pharmacy.
For websites listing a United States street address, verify that there is a business address provided along with a telephone number to call if you have any questions. The website should also include all of the states in which they hold a license and conduct business and a state-licensed pharmacist on hand to answer any patient’s question.
For websites listing a Canadian street address, verify that the pharmacy is legitimate by checking with the pharmacy regulatory authority for the province or territory to see if the pharmacy and/or pharmacist is licensed. You may also check the NAPRA which contains a list of Canadian Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities.
Keep in mind that if you do not see a Canadian address on the website, you can use the Pharmacy Verified Websites Program to check and see if that online pharmacy is legitimate. The .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program is an American program that is used to help patients identify safe and legal online pharmacies.
4. Check The Pharmacy Domain
Any web address that contains a .pharmacy domain means that the site has been verified by the NABP.
The .pharmacy domain is something that cannot be faked nor forged so you’ll know that it has been accredited or verified by the NABP.
It is generally highly recommended that when opting to purchase prescription meds online, use websites that have been verified by the NABP and the Pharmacy Verified Websites Program verifies sites in not just the United States, but in Canada and the EU as well.
5. Talk to Your Doctor or Pharmacist
The very first thing you should do before you order from a Canadian pharmacy is to talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a reputable online Canadian pharmacy that is safe and legitimate. They will be able to tell you what to look for and help verify that the pharmacy is safe to use.
If you find a pharmacy that seems to be safe and legitimate, tell your doctor. They will check to see that it is approved and can legally sell prescription drugs. They can also help you verify that the pharmacist has his or her license and is registered.
6. Check The Internet Pharmacy Logo
Another way to verify if an online pharmacy is legitimate is by checking the logo.
The purpose of the logo is to help patients identify websites that can legally sell prescription medications online. You should be able to click the logo and be redirected to a list of licensed and authorized pharmacies.
If you the online pharmacy is registered and on the list then it is safe to purchase your prescription meds from that website. You should never purchase prescription medications from websites that do not display a logo.
7. Keep Your Personal Information Safe
Never provide personal information when purchasing prescription medication online.
Did you know that 95% of online pharmacies are illegal and safe out of more than 35,000 online pharmacies according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy? For that reason, it is imperative that you educate yourself on how to stay safe when purchasing medication online.
8. Check The Registration Status of the Pharmacist
A great way to make sure a pharmacy website is legitimate is by checking the registration status of the pharmacist online.
You can check the registration status of the pharmacist by searching for the name and address of the pharmacy that operates the website. Check with your state board of pharmacy to see if the pharmacist is registered as all pharmacists are licensed by their state board of pharmacy.
All pharmacists must be licensed and registered so if you come across an online pharmacy where the pharmacists is not licensed or registered then chances are it’s fake.
9. Check for a Drug Identification Number
Always check to see that the prescription drug has a DIN.
A DIN stands for a Drug Identification Number. In Canada, all prescription drugs that have been approved for sale have an eight-digit DIN.
With a DIN, the patient will know that Health Canada has approved the prescription drug to be safe and effective. A DIN is also provided as a way to track any adverse drug reactions that may occur from taking that drug.
For all prescription and therapeutic drugs, Health Canada conducts risk and benefit assessments and regularly reviews it for safety, effectiveness, and quality before it’s placed out in the market.
10. Avoid All Spam or Too Good To Be True Emails
Any spam email that seems to offer medicines at an extremely low cost or almost seems too good to be true is most likely scam emails and comes from illegitimate pharmacies.
It is best to avoid any and all of those emails while searching online for safe and reputable pharmacies.
A safe and legal online pharmacy will not bombard you with too good to be true emails offering prescription medications at ridiculously low rates.
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- A Study On Public Health and SocioEconomic Impact of substandard and falsified medical products – who.int
- Buying Drugs Online: It’s Convenient and Private, but Beware of ‘Rogue Sites’ – webmd.com
- Choosing A Safe Online Pharmacy – canada.ca
- Growing threat from counterfeit medicines – who.int
- How to Buy Medicines Safely From an Online Pharmacy – fda.gov
- MedWatch: Online Volunteering Report Form – fda.gov
- National Association of Boards of Pharmacy: Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program – nabp.pharmacy
- Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities – napra.ca