Things to Watch Out for When Buying Drugs Online

Do you buy drugs online? Great! It’s convenient and a great way to save money. Many health insurance policies encourage you to use their authorized online pharmacies or suppliers to fill your prescriptions. Buying prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medical supplies online is also an easy way to keep track of qualifying expenses for Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts. However, last month’s scare over counterfeit Avastin raised concerns both about the integrity of America’s drug supplies and some of the online pharmacies that cater to people seeking cheap drugs.

Counterfeit drugs aren’t a new problem and they certainly aren’t confined to the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) even has a snappy name for them: Spurious/falsely-labeled/falsified/counterfeit medicines – SFFC for short. Although they’ve backed off their earlier claim that as much as 10% of the world’s branded and generic drugs are counterfeit, they continue to warn of the very real dangers. Use of SFFCs, WHO’s website rightly states, can result in treatment failure or death while eroding public confidence in health-delivery systems. Some of the most commonly counterfeited drugs include medications to treat male ED, female birth control pills and drugs for anxiety and weight loss.

If you enjoy the convenience, ease and savings when you buy prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines online, here are some buying drugs online tips from the US Food and Drug Administration:

  • If you’re filling a prescription at an online pharmacy, make sure it requires a prescription from a licensed prescriber and has a pharmacist available to answer your questions. Selling prescription drugs without a prescription is against the law in the U.S.
  • Only buy online from licensed pharmacies that are located in the U.S. You can get more information about licensing from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy ( While many legitimate online pharmacies operate without one, the NABP does have a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Sites™ Seal that indicates compliance.
  • Beware of prices that are too good to be true. If you’re being offered a drug at a price that is significantly lower than what legitimate online pharmacies are charging, this is a pretty clear indicator that the drug is bogus.
  • Before you provide your credit card and other personal data, be sure the site is encrypted and take a few minutes to read the privacy and terms of use policies while you’re at it. You don’t want to end up besieged
    with offers for Viagra.
  • Know your drugs. Know what the legitimate size, color, shape and packaging look like.
  • Another caveat to consider: even if the low-cost prescription drug is the real deal, it may be old, too strong or weak a dose, made using unsafe standards or labeled, stored or shipped incorrectly.

Congress is addressing the issue of counterfeit drugs. Last month, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would double the penalties for selling fake drugs. If the bill becomes law, it would impose a maximum penalty on individuals who import and market forged drugs of $4 million and 20 years imprisonment. Companies involved in the crime would face heavier fines.


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