Protect yourself and your family by using caution when buying medicine online. There are many pharmacy websites that operate legally and offer convenience, privacy, and safeguards for purchasing medicines.
But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that there are many rogue online pharmacies that claim to sell prescription medicines at deeply discounted prices, often without requiring a valid prescription. These Internet-based pharmacies often sell unapproved or counterfeit medicines outside the safeguards followed by licensed pharmacies.
These rogue sites often prominently display a Canadian flag, but may actually be operated by criminals from the other side of the globe with no connection to Canada. Medicines bought from these websites can be dangerous and may put your health at risk.
How can you tell if an online pharmacy is operating legally? The FDA’s BeSafeRx can help you identify and avoid fake online pharmacies.
Signs of a rogue online pharmacy
Beware of online pharmacies that:
–Allow you to buy prescription medicine without a valid prescription from your health care provider.
–Do not have a U.S. state-licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
–Offer very low prices that seem too good to be true.
–Send spam or unsolicited email offering cheap medicine.
–Are located outside of the United States or ship worldwide.
These pharmacies often sell medicines that can be dangerous because they may:
–Have too much or too little of the active ingredient you need to treat your disease or condition.
–Not contain the right active ingredient.
–Contain the wrong or other harmful ingredients.
The active ingredient is what makes the medicine effective for the illness or condition it is intended to treat. If a medicine has unknown active ingredients, it could fail to have the intended effect, could have an unexpected interaction with other medicines you are taking, could cause dangerous side effects, or may cause other serious health problems, such as serious allergic reactions.
Also, these medicines may not have been stored properly, such as in a warehouse without necessary temperature controls, which may cause the medicine to be ineffective in treating the disease or condition for which you are taking it.
Know the signs of a safe online pharmacy
There are ways you can identify a safe online pharmacy. They:
–Require a valid prescription from a doctor or another licensed health care professional.
–Are licensed by your state board of pharmacy, or equivalent state agency. (To verify the licensing status of a pharmacy, check your state board of pharmacy.)
–Do not appear on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s “List of Not Recommended Websites.” (Just because the online pharmacy does not appear on this list does not mean it is safe.)
–Have a U.S. state-licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
–Are in the United States and provide a street address.
Another way to check on a website is to look for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesTM Seal, also known as the VIPPS(R) Seal. This seal means that the Internet pharmacy is safe to use because it has met state licensure requirements, as well as other NABP criteria. Visit the VIPPS website to find legitimate pharmacies that carry the VIPPS seal.
(A Wellness Update is a magazine devoted to up-to-the minute information on health issues from physicians, major hospitals and clinics, universities and health care agencies across the U.S. Online at www.awellnessupdate.com.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.