Online pharmacies: the good, the bad and the really bad


Online pharmacies can save you time and money, even if you have drug insurance, but there are pitfalls to watch out for

Are you tired of spending so much money on prescription drugs and you are browsing very professional online pharmacy websites. The premises, and the promises, are enticing. Save Money, Free Shipping, No Prescriptions Needed, No Doctor Visits Needed.

According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, of the approximately 35,000 online pharmacies worldwide, 95% are unregulated and fraudulent, selling products that may be substandard, contaminated or expired. | Credit: Getty

There’s Viagra for erectile dysfunction, drugs that promise to help you lose weight, and opioid painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin. You are a cautious consumer. You’ve read the fine print, but it doesn’t seem to hurt to order from there. In fact, it sounds like a great idea.

“These digital drug dealers know what consumers want and they deliver, their main goal being to sell you pills for profit.”

Except, if you don’t know what to look for, you could very well be buying fake fentanyl or methamphetamine pills from an international or domestic criminal network.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2021 report Public Safety Alert, there is a huge increase in online sales of counterfeit death pills. Mass-produced in Mexico, smuggled into the United States, and sold on popular social media and e-commerce platforms, they resemble their legitimate counterparts and are sickening and killing Americans at an unprecedented rate.

Many buy prescription drugs online

Americans of all demographics are shopping for a wide range of prescription drugs online, including drugs to treat persistent conditions such as asthma or diabetes, specialty drugs such as those for cancer, and frequently taken drugs like Adderall for ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder).

According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), of the approximately 35,000 online pharmacies worldwide, 95% are unregulated and fraudulent, selling products that may be substandard, contaminated or expired. Operating within US pharmacy laws and safety standards, they won’t necessarily cure what you’re suffering from and, in fact, they might even kill you.

“Data shows that online pharmacies are being used by increasing numbers of people, especially during the early stages of the pandemic when people weren’t entering physical stores,” says Libby Baney, senior adviser at the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) and ASOP Global Foundation.

She explains, “People use them for convenience, cost and easy access to medication. It can often be cheaper to buy medication there, even if you have health insurance and are not responsible. When they are legitimate and legal, providing you with the prescription medications your doctor has prescribed for you, online pharmacies can be a viable alternative to the pharmacy.”

Legitimate is the key word. How to tell good online pharmacies and websites from bad ones is very confusing for consumers, Baney says. Even working in the field of health does not make it easier to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“These digital drug dealers know what consumers want and they deliver, their main goal being to sell you pills for profit,” Baney says.

Are you ordering from an online pharmacy because you don’t have time to go to the doctor? If there is no “real” doctor or pharmacist to chat with online, you may decide for yourself that you need a Z-pack or Cipro (types of antibiotics) for that sore throat persistent or this urinary tract infection. You will be asked to complete a questionnaire which is supposed to be reviewed by a pharmacist, and your medicine will be on its way soon.

The problem is, it may not be the right drug or dosage for your self-diagnosed problem, and you have no way of knowing if the drug you’re getting is produced in a shoddy facility or if it contains a much smaller amount of assets. ingredient than it should.

Misconceptions about online pharmacies

In addition to putting your health at risk, buying prescription drugs from fraudulent online pharmacies can compromise your financial and personal data, infect your computer with a virus, and allow your information to be spread to other illegal websites. and Internet scams.

Although both ship your medications directly to your home, your insurance plan’s mail-order pharmacy is different from an online pharmacy. Mail-order pharmacies that operate under your health plan require you to have a particular type of insurance, while online pharmacies are more like a pharmacy and may or may not accept insurance.

Do you think you are a wise consumer? The results of a May 2021 survey, “American Perceptions and Use of Online Pharmacies” by The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global Foundation), were quite illuminating.

45% of respondents mistakenly believe that all websites offering health services and prescription drugs via the Internet are safe, verified and approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or state regulatory agencies. This belief is even higher (59%) among those who have already purchased medication online.

A shocking 25% of consumers say they would accept a higher risk when buying from an online pharmacy for more savings or convenience. 46% said they would buy prescription drugs from an online source not Approved by the FDA if it gave them access to drugs they couldn’t otherwise get or drugs at cheaper prices.

Many people mistakenly believe that all Canadian drugs sold online are safe and legitimate.

45% of respondents mistakenly believe that all websites offering health services and prescription drugs via the Internet are safe.

Better to be safe than sorry

Does that mean you shouldn’t use online pharmacies? No way. The savings can be substantial, especially if you or a family member takes a number of medications. What is that Is means you have to do your research carefully. There is a lot of information online (which is a bit of an oxymoron) that is educational and useful.

Here are some great sites to bookmark and familiarize yourself with:

· The Alliance for safe online pharmacies allows you to download a list of safe pharmacy websites or search their site to see if the one you are considering is legit. There is also a Facebook page.

· Your national pharmacy board, health care provider, and pharmacist (legitimate, flesh-and-blood) are great resources for learning how to buy and use medicines safely.

Look for sites with the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal that are accredited. Or use Check Before You Buy, a service from Center for Secure Internet PharmaciesWhere LegitScript.

· Look for “.pharmacy” at the end of a web address. When a website ends in .pharmacy, it has been verified by NABP. Unlike logos, the pharmacy domain cannot be tampered with or tampered with.

Some of the best known and safest online pharmacies include Caremark Rx LLC, Costco Wholesale Corporation, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

· Check Non-Recommended Sites for a long list of sites that NABP avoids.

Dangerous narcotics and fake pharmaceuticals are also widely available for purchase on social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter. According to the Alliance to Counter Online Crime, drug sales on these platforms fall into two categories: illegal narcotics such as heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, sold by individuals and criminal syndicates, and controls such as opioid painkillers sold over the counter by rogue online pharmacies.

Social media algorithms make it possible to target specific populations that are likely to want the some products they peddle.

The dangers of a rogue pharmacy

Some red flags of a rogue online pharmacy include:

Prescription drugs are dispensed after the patient completes an online questionnaire, but there is no prescription submitted or doctor contact

· There is no toll-free phone number or mailing address for the internet drug outlet on their website, and the only way to contact them is through email

No pharmacist consultation is available either by phone or secure web communication

They ship prescription drugs worldwide or are located outside of the United States

Their prices seem incredibly cheap

“Consumers are far too confident when it comes to buying services or products online, including medicines. To take the word of an anonymous seller about safety and effectiveness is to put your health in their hands, even if you have no idea who they are,” Baney says.

His advice? “Check before you buy and don’t buy drugs from social media companies and online marketplaces.”

Barbara Consentino, writer
Barbra WilliamsCosentino RN, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Queens, NY, and a freelance writer whose essays and articles on health, parenting, and mental health have appeared in The New York Times, Medscape, BabyCenter, and many other national and online publications. line. Read more

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