Using online pharmacies can be risky. Here’s how to browse them



  • Randy Hutchinson is the president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. Contact the BBB at 800-222-8754.

“The difference with pharmaceuticals, as opposed to buying a fake Fendi or Louis Vuitton bag, is that you are talking about your health.”

That’s what John P. Leonard, the No. 2 trade manager for customs and border protection, said when speaking to AARP about counterfeit drugs. The two main fakes are erectile dysfunction drugs Viagra and Cialis, but he also cited fake Botox treatments, fake cancer and cholesterol drugs, and others.

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On its website, pharmaceutical company Viatris claims to have found the following in counterfeit drugs:

  • Blue printer ink.
  • Amphetamines, also called “speed”.
  • Metronidazole, a strong antibiotic which could cause an allergic reaction, diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Too much (or not enough) active ingredient, which can harm you.
  • Binding agents, such as drywall, that prevent the tablet from breaking down in your system.

Eli Lilly says people who take counterfeit drugs can ingest arsenic, shoe polish, cement powder and leaded road paint. Not to mention illicit or illegal drugs like fentanyl.

Most of the fake drugs are sold through online pharmacies. According to the AARP, there are over 650 websites with “Viagra” or something similar in their domain name that are labeled “not recommended” by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), which includes organizations of regulation of state pharmacies. Its executive director, Lemrey “Al” Carter, told AARP that dishonest online pharmacies “lure patients to the Internet to seek cheaper alternatives and endanger patient health and safety.”

The FDA says more and more people are turning to online pharmacies for a variety of reasons. Health insurance plans encourage the use of online pharmacy services and home delivery of maintenance medications. Many consumers appreciate the convenience and privacy of purchasing their medications online and are drawn to the cost savings advertised therein.

There are approximately 35,000 online pharmacies in operation at any given time, but only 3-5% comply with US pharmacy laws and standards of practice. Many appear to be located in Canada, which has gained a reputation as a source to buy cheaper drugs, but some of their drugs are actually made in Russia, China, and other countries on the other end. of the world. It doesn’t necessarily make them bad, but dealing with a legitimate online pharmacy becomes more and more important.

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The FDA offers these warning signs that an online pharmacy may not be legitimate:

  • Allows you to purchase drugs without a prescription or complete an online questionnaire.
  • Offers prices that sound too good to be true.
  • Ads by unsolicited email or social media.
  • Ships prescriptions worldwide or indicates that drugs will be shipped from a foreign country.

The FDA says to look for a physical address in the United States and make sure the online pharmacy is licensed by the state it is in and your state. He must have a state-certified pharmacist to answer your questions. You can view an online pharmacy at the NABP website. Its Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal indicates that an online pharmacy meets its standards.

In addition to the risks of buying the wrong drugs, the FDA says unsafe websites can put your personal and financial information at risk. They can sell it to crooks and / or infect your computer with viruses.

Randy Hutchinson is the president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. Contact the BBB at 800-222-8754.


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