Buying Prescription Drugs on the Internet? How Safe is That Site?

Graph of Internet Pharmacies reviewed by NABPAlthough US federal law requires a valid prescription to purchase prescription medicine over the Internet, at least 8,000 rogue sites break that law every day.

And, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found Internet searching results are being manipulated to send searchers to web sites with links to those illegal pharmacies.

Following results for 218 drug-related searches over a nine month period in 2010 and 2011, the Carnegie Mellon team found one-third of the searches directed to infected sites with links to illicit online pharmacies.

Report author Nicolas Christin said,

We have known for some time that unauthorized online pharmacies have been using email spam to tap the wallets of unwary online consumers, but that method did not blanket enough customers so now the online thieves are infecting websites to redirect unwary consumers to hundreds of illegal online pharmacies.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reviews thousands on websites that sell prescription medicines.  Only a very few meet their standards.   Reviewing 8,353 Internet sites, NABP found 96 percent did not meet one or more key measures of quality:

  • Were located and licensed in the United States.
  • Had a licensed pharmacist on staff.
  • Required a valid prescription from the individual’s own healthcare provider.
  • Provided contact information in case the consumer has questions about their medicine.

A valid prescription is one issued pursuant to a legitimate patient-prescriber relationship, which requires the following to have been established: a) The patient has a legitimate medical complaint; b) A face-to-face physical examination adequate to establish the legitimacy of the medical complaint has been performed by the prescribing practitioner, or through a telemedicine practice approved by the appropriate practitioner board; and c) A logical connection exists between the medical complaint, the medical history, and the physical examination and the drug prescribed.

NABP found that 85 percent of the over 8,000 pharmacy sites in its Not Recommended Sites list did not require a doctor’s prescription.   In addition:

  • 63 percent depended on an online questionnaire or consultation to dispense drugs.
  • 46 percent offered foreign or non-FDA approved medicines.
  • 12 percent illegally dispensed controlled substances
  • 18 percent were non-secure sites, putting consumers at risk for stolen identities and credit card and medical information.

How can you protect yourself when buying prescriptions online?

  • Be sure you have a prescription from your own doctor after an examination that verifies you need that particular medicine.
  • Check your pharmacy site to be sure it is not on the NABP Not Recommended List.
  • Use LegitScriptto check the site.  LegitScript has a much larger database of 82,392 pharmacy websites, 99% of which don’t meet standards.
  • Choose a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) with an accreditation  from the National Association of Pharmacy Boards.
  • If you use a search engine, check out any sites that might have been highjacked or manipulated by hackers with either NAPB or LegitScript before buying.






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