Buying Medicine Online – What Are the Risks?
For some, using an online pharmacy offers convenience and savings when they are obtaining prescription medicines for themselves and their families. But being an informed consumer is more important than ever when it comes to buying medication online. The majority of websites selling medications are not what they appear to be. NABP has reviewed over 11,500 online drug outlets and found that 96% appear to be operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards. What does this mean?
Buying from rogue online drug sellers puts consumers at risk of:
- Receiving pills that contain such fillers as drywall and rat poison
- Having your financial and other personal information stolen
- Having your email inbox flooded with spam that could infect your home computer with viruses
In the worst cases, people have died from receiving counterfeit medications that didn’t treat their serious medical conditions.
NABP has led the charge in increasing patient safety for quite a while, starting with the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites® (VIPPS®) program that has granted accreditation to safe online pharmacies in the US since 1999, reviewing thousands of websites and providing a “Not Recommended” list since 2008, and becoming the official registry operator for the new .pharmacy domain in 2014.
NABP launched the .Pharmacy Verified Website Program because verifications and logos aren’t enough anymore. Criminals can easily create fake sites and copy fake logos. The sites look professional, authoritative, and credible. In reality, they are providing consumers with substandard or fake medicine. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that between 100,000 and 1 million people die each year from counterfeit medications. Here are some other startling facts about the prevalence of rogue online drug sellers:
- Every day, 20 new illegal pharmacies appear on the internet, as reported by the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies.
- 62% of medicines purchased online are fake or substandard, as indicated in a report from the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines.
- 89% of illegal online pharmacies do not require a valid prescription, as found through NABP’s review and analysis.
Resources for Buying Safely
Being well informed is the best way to stay safe when purchasing medicine online. NABP offers many resources to help consumers and pharmacists educate themselves, their families, and their communities.
The Buying Safely section of safe.pharmacy provides a list of .pharmacy sites as well as information on spotting rogue online pharmacies. Many VIPPS-accredited pharmacies are also choosing to register a .pharmacy domain name for their approved website.
The Not Recommended List is a list of websites that have been found to be operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards.
The AWARxE Prescription Drug Safety Program provides resources for pharmacists including downloadable flyers to help educate patients about buying safely online, as well as other important prescription drug safety issues.