Legal online pharmacies that are located in the United States have a license from their state pharmacy board, have a licensed personnel, like a pharmacist who can answer any patient questions related to medications and also require a valid prescription for a doctor.
However, sometimes U.S. citizens could find an online pharmacy which claims that their doctor can answer the question and write a prescription or even say that prescription is not required to get a medication. Those online pharmacies are breaking the law.
According to the research conducted by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), only about 3% out of thousands of online pharmacies are following federal and state laws. There are only about a dozen online pharmacies that have been verified by the NABP are legitimate and do not break any regulations. It is becoming even more concerning, considering the fact that most of the U.S. residents do not know about the legitimate and verified pharmacies, as well as illegal ones.
In May this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) questioned nearly 6,000 of adults during an internet survey they have conducted. The FDA reported about 30% of all people who bought medications online were not sure if they could safely get their drugs. 25% of all people who use the Internet for shopping have bought medications online as well.
Because of the increasing amount of counterfeit drugs and illegal online pharmacies, the FDA launched www.FDA.gov/BeSafeRx website on September 28, 2012. This website should help consumers to check if the website they use is safe. The BeSafeRx site warns consumers about dangerous, or deadly consequences if they buy their prescription drug in a fake pharmacy online. It also warning that most of the Internet pharmacies are illegal or fake and people have higher chance to get harm from counterfeit medications. Medications from those pharmacies are often past their expiration date, contaminated, contain toxic substances or have no any active ingredient at all. Those medications could be a reason for side-effect occurrence, dangerous interactions with other medications and develop a resistance to an active ingredient that will make real medications useless in treatment.
BeSafeRx site includes everything necessary to know in order to check if a website is illegal. On the website, consumers may find links needed to find the safe and licensed pharmacy in their state. Also, the FDA’s site explains that fake medications are not only one reason to stop using uncertified online pharmacies. Those pharmacies have websites which could infect the computer with viruses, collect and sell personal data of its consumers, or even use card details and other data to charge people for products which have never been ordered or received. On the top of that, the data could be transferred to other websites or directly to internet scammers.
The FDA is going to conduct a follow –up survey to check if their campaign was successful and if the public noted the main message of BeSafeRx. As for now, the FDA works with federal agencies to make the online drug obtaining safe, but also reaching out to health care professionals to help them. On the website healthcare professionals can find the materials they need (discussion guides, blogs, data sheets) and some information about how to check if their patient uses a fake website or gets some counterfeit medications.
The reason for BeSafeRx development
In May this year, several consumers complained to the FDA about their medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They bought fake generic forms of Adderall in the Internet drug stores. Fortunately for those consumers, they were not seriously injured by taking fake medications.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the FDA Commissioner, said that doctors usually prescribe different medications or assume the disease is the main reason for this ineffectiveness when patient do not feel better after taking fake medications. She added that most fake medications were not simply not detected, in cases like that.
Another case for BeSafeRx development was fake Avastin, which cancer clinics and doctors bought from the wholesaler in Montana in February and April this year. Avastin is a high-cost brand medication that administered through injections. The FDA warned health care providers about the fake and found out that counterfeit medications were transferred through a “gray network” of wholesalers from Eastern Europe and Asia.
With the higher cost of medications in the U.S., some of the consumers prefer to obtain medications from Canada-based pharmacies because the prices are lower there. You can also read more about senior citizens who buy their medications in those pharmacies and safety concerns.
That is the reason why many fake sites put a Canadian flag on the main page of their site or contain word “Canada” in their Internet address name. Those websites made by professionals and have a nice look, but the prices are incredibly low. Dr. Hamburg said that if prices seemed to be too low to be true, they probably were.