BeSafeRx: FDA helping consumers avoid risks of online prescription drug purchases

From the BeSafeRx website:
Buying from fake online pharmacies can be dangerous, or even deadly. Before you order medicine online, it is important to know the risks of buying from fake online pharmacies.
 
You could receive counterfeit or substandard drugs.
The drugs you receive may look real, but they could be counterfeit, contaminated, expired or otherwise unsafe. If you receive counterfeit or substandard medicines, they could keep you from getting better, make you sick or worse.
 
Slight differences in your medicine can make a big difference.
…Medicine that may be approved in other countries or produced by unknown sources may have slight variations or different ingredients that could cause you to get sicker, develop a resistance to your medicine, or cause new side effects…
 
You could put your personal and financial information at risk.
Most fake online pharmacies lack adequate safeguards to protect personal and financial information, and some intentionally misuse the information you provide . . .
 
WARNING! Beware of online pharmacies that:
  • Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription from your doctor
  • Offer deep discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true
  • Send spam or unsolicited email offering cheap drugs
  • Are located outside of the United States
  • Are not licensed in the United States.
 
Tips for identifying safe online pharmacies:
  • Always require a doctor’s prescription
  • Provide a physical address and telephone number in the United States
  • Offer a pharmacist to answer your questions
  • Have a license with your state board of pharmacy.
 

As a pharmacist who cares about patients’ individual medication needs, I am delighted to share my thoughts on FDA’s latest effort to protect patients from fraudulent, illegal online pharmacies. We’ve just launched BeSafeRx – Know Your Online Pharmacy, a national campaign to educate consumers about the risks of buying prescription medications over the Internet.

It’s troubling to hear that some patients don’t recognize the need to carefully select where they buy their prescription medicines, or that the “pharmacy” they’re buying from might not actually be a pharmacy at all. Too often it seems that it has become second nature for many consumers to buy clothes, electronics or even medicines on the Internet. But the reality is that purchasing drugs from Internet sources that are not known to be reliable is a risky business, and today, with the sale of counterfeit drugs escalating worldwide, perhaps riskier than ever.
How risky? According to a recent FDA survey, nearly one in four of the surveyed Internet users reported having purchased prescription medicine online. This fact alone is not surprising, considering that many people, especially those with prescription drug insurance, use the Internet to get their prescriptions safely filled from legitimate and reputable pharmacies.
Unfortunately, in many other cases—far more than we’d like to see—consumers are surfing the Web for cheaper or more convenient sources. Our survey showed that about 29% of survey participants said they were unsure about how to safely purchase medicine online. Why is this important? Because, according to reviews by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), less than 3% of online pharmacies comply with US laws and NABP practice standards, making it critically important for online consumers to understand how to recognize fraudulent, illegal online pharmacies and how to identify a safe, legal online pharmacy.
That’s why I’m so excited about the BeSafeRx campaign! We’re providing consumers with practical and useful tools to help them make informed decisions about their online purchases. All this useful information is just a click away.*
When I was in pharmacy practice, I wanted nothing but the best for my patients, and now, as a pharmacist with FDA, I want nothing but the best for the American public. BeSafeRx helps FDA protect public health, and I’m proud to be a part of it. So be safe, and make sure you know your online pharmacy!
 
*http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/BuyingMedicinesOvertheInternet/BeSafeRxKnowYourOnlinePharmacy/default.htm

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Illisa BernsteinIlisa B.G. Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D., is the Director (Acting), Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Excerpted from the FDA Voice blog.