The ugly truth about online pharmacies

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

Except, if you don’t know what to look for, you may very well buy fake prescription pills containing fentanyl or methamphetamine from an international or domestic criminal drug network.

“Consumers are far too trusting when it comes to buying services or products online, including medicines.”

— Libby Baney, senior advisor to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies

There’s Viagra for erectile dysfunction, drugs that promise to help you lose weight, and opioid pain relievers like OxyContin and Vicodin. You are a cautious consumer. You read the fine print, but it seems there is nothing wrong with ordering from there. In fact, it seems like a great idea.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2021 Public Safety Alert, there has been a huge surge in online sales of deadly counterfeit pills. Mass-produced in Mexico, smuggled into the US and sold on popular social media and e-commerce platforms, they look just like their legitimate counterparts and are sickening and killing Americans at an unprecedented rate.

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Many buy prescription drugs online

Americans from all demographics buy a wide variety of prescription drugs online, including drugs to treat persistent conditions like asthma or diabetes, specialty drugs like those for cancer, and commonly abused drugs like Adderall for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), 95% of the approximately 35,000 online pharmacies around the world are unregulated and fraudulent, selling products that may be substandard, spoiled or expired. They violate US pharmacy laws and safety standards and will not necessarily cure what ails you, and in fact they may even kill you.

“Evidence shows that online pharmacies are being used by an increasing number of people, especially during the early stages of the pandemic when people were not entering brick-and-mortar stores,” said Libby Baney, senior advisor to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) and the ASOP Global Foundation.

She explains: “People use them for the convenience, cost and easy access to medicines. It can often be cheaper to buy medicines there, even if you have health insurance and are only responsible for a co-payment. When they are legitimate and legal and supplying you with the prescription medications your doctor ordered, online pharmacies can be a viable alternative to going to the pharmacy.”

Legitimate is the operative word. How to separate the good online pharmacies and websites from the bad is very confusing for consumers, explains Baney. Even working in healthcare doesn’t make it easier to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“These digital drug dealers know what consumers want and they are obligated, with the main goal of selling 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’s no ‘real’ doctor or pharmacist to chat with online, you can decide for yourself that you need a Z-pack or Cipro (types of antibiotics) for that persistent sore throat or urinary tract infection. You will be asked to complete a questionnaire that is supposedly reviewed by a pharmacist, and your medicine will be on its way shortly.

The problem is, it may not be the right medication or dosage for your self-diagnosed problem, and you can’t tell if the drug you’re getting is produced in a shoddy facility or if it contains a much smaller amount of active ingredient. ingredient than it should.

Misconceptions about online pharmacies

In addition to endangering your health, buying prescription drugs from fraudulent online pharmacies can jeopardize your financial and personal information, infect your computer with a virus and cause your information to be spread to other illegal websites and internet scams.

While both will ship your medications directly to your home, your insurance plan’s mail order pharmacy differs from an online pharmacy. Mail order pharmacies that operate through your health plan require you to have some type of insurance, while online pharmacies are more like a drugstore and may or may not accept insurance.

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

Some 45% of respondents wrongly believe that all websites offering healthcare services and prescription drugs over the internet are safe, verified and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or state regulatory agencies. This belief is even higher (59%) among those who have previously purchased drugs online.

A shocking 25% of consumers say they would accept a higher risk when buying from an online pharmacy for more savings or greater convenience† A whopping 46% said they would be willing to purchase prescription drugs from an online source, that is not The FDA approved it if it gave them access to drugs they wouldn’t otherwise get or drugs at lower prices.

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

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Better be safe than sorry

Does this mean you should not use online pharmacies? Not at all. The savings can be significant, especially if you or a family member is on some medications. what it is doing means you need to do your research carefully. There is a lot of information online (which is a bit of a contradiction) that is educational and useful.

Some excellent sites to bookmark and familiarize yourself with include:

  • The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies allows you to download a list of safe pharmacy websites or search their site to see if a site you are considering is legit. There is also a Facebook page.

  • Your state pharmacy, your health care provider, and your (legitimate, flesh and blood) pharmacist are excellent resources for learning how to safely purchase and use medications.

  • Look for sites with the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal that: accredited† Or use Verify Before You Buy, a service from the Center for Secure Internet Pharmaciesor 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 faked or faked.

  • Some of the most well-known and safe online pharmacies include: Caremark Rx LLCCostco Wholesale and Walmart Inc.

  • To check Not Recommended Sites for a comprehensive list of sites NABP avoids.

Dangerous narcotics and fake drugs are also widely available for purchase on social media platforms such as Facebook


or Twitter

According to the Alliance to Counter Crime Online, the sale of drugs on these platforms falls into two categories: illegal narcotics such as heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, sold by individuals and criminal syndicates, and controlled substances such as opioid painkillers sold over the counter by rogue online. pharmacies.

Social media algorithms allow targeting specific populations that are likely to Products they are crocheting.

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The dangers of a rogue pharmacy

Some red flags of an online rogue pharmacy are:

  • Prescription drugs are dispensed after the patient has completed an online questionnaire, but no prescription or contact with the doctor has been submitted

  • There is no toll-free phone number or address for the internet drug store on their website, and the only way to communicate with them is by email

  • There is no pharmacy consultation available over the phone or secure web-based communication

  • They ship prescription drugs all over the world or are located outside the US

  • Their prices seem bizarrely cheap?

“Consumers are far too trusting when it comes to buying services or products online, including medicines. Taking the word of an anonymous salesperson about safety and efficacy is putting your health in their hands, even if you have no idea who they are,” says Baney.

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

Barbra Williams Cosentino 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.

This article is reprinted with permission from© 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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