Is Your Online Pharmacy Safe?

online pharmacyThe U.S. The Food and Drug Administration has launched a national campaign called BeSafeRx to educate consumers on the dangers of online pharmacies. As drug costs continue to rise, many consumers are turning to online resources for their medications because of the convenience, as well as for the cost savings. The effort began following an influx of online sellers providing dangerous, counterfeit, and sometimes deadly medications to unsuspecting customers.

“BeSafeRx: Your Source for Online Pharmacy Information” is meant to provide educational tools to consumers that allow them to safely buy medications online. It also provides information to healthcare providers so that they can advise their patients of the best ways to protect themselves when purchasing drugs through online pharmacies.

According to the FDA, there are roughly 35,000 active online pharmacies at any point in time; only about 5% of those, or about 1,750 of them are safe and legitimate, complying with the laws and regulations outlined by U.S. laws and standards.

How Do I Know if an Online Pharmacy is Safe?

The FDA keeps busy reviewing both prescription and non-prescription drugs for quality and effectiveness. These regulated products are sold in licensed pharmacies across the country. However, there is a growing number of unlicensed online pharmacies that are peddling drugs that may not be what they claim they are, and that may be unsafe.

You can protect yourself and your family by purchasing your prescription drugs from state-licensed online pharmacies, and talking to your doctor about specific online resources.

Your online pharmacy is probably safe if:

  • You always have to have a doctor’s prescription to purchase prescription medications.
  • It lists a U.S.-based physical address and telephone number.
  • A licensed pharmacist is available to answer your questions.
  • It holds a license from a state board of pharmacy in your state and in the state where they operate.

BEWARE of pharmacies with the following warning signs:

  • A doctor’s prescription is not required to purchase prescription drugs.
  • It is not licensed by a state board of pharmacy.
  • There is no licensed pharmacist on staff.
  • They send you unsolicited or spammy emails advertising cheap products.
  • The medication you receive does not look like what you normally receive from your local pharmacy. Packaging may be broken, or it may have instructions written in a foreign language. It may also be expired or have no expiration date.
  • The prices they offer appear too good to be true.
  • You are charged for products you did not order.
  • It does not provide clear, written protection of your financial information, or they openly or secretly sell your identifying information to other websites.
  • They state that the products will be shipped from a foreign country.

Why Should I Be Careful of an Online Pharmacy?

You may be putting your life or the life of a loved one at risk if you buy medications from an unsafe online pharmacy. The medications you receive may not contain what you think you’re buying. Some of these pharmacies sell medications made from the wrong ingredients, or they can contain the wrong amount of the active ingredient needed. Sometimes they don’t contain any of the active ingredient(s) at all, and can instead contain dangerous or ineffective substitutes. Some of these phony drugs can cause terrible unanticipated side effects.

It isn’t just your health at risk. Regulators have seen a substantial increase in financial crimes related to these fake pharmacies. Sometimes they intentionally abuse your trust by stealing financial information. Many use your access to their sites to infect your computer with spyware or viruses, then turn around and sell your personal information to scammers or other nefarious sites.

Where Do I Find More Information?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has put together online resources as part of its BeSafeRx Campaign. Click here to learn more. 

You can also talk to your healthcare provider about safe options you may have to make your medications more affordable. He or she will likely provide you with some options so that your health is not in danger.