Most people have become comfortable making purchases online. Items are usually less expensive and quickly delivered, and privacy concerns have been largely mitigated. While it took a little longer for people to feel confident in purchasing healthcare items from an online retailer, the practice has become far more common. The potential for considerable savings, and the ability to find items that may be difficult to source locally, has boosted the trend. Unfortunately, the risks associated with purchasing prescriptions online have begun to increase.
The FDA recently released a press announcement about their joint efforts with Interpol to cut down on fraudulent and illegal sales of prescriptions online. Numerous websites were targeted as were products passing through various distribution points in the United States. Products that have been sold illegally include those for weight loss, narcolepsy, glaucoma, depression, high cholesterol, asthma, and more.
The primary concern is that consumers are receiving medications that are not properly formulated, or that they will be given a drug that has not been approved and proven safe for the intended use. This has led to negative health conditions, and in some cases, death for some consumers. The secondary concerns are identity theft, credit card fraud, and malware from fake pharmacy sites.
Online Pharmacy Safety
The FDA has implemented a Be Safe Rx campaign that includes a website with pertinent information and guidelines for choosing a reputable online pharmacy. The website goes over the risks associated with buying prescriptions online, the signs that indicate if an online pharmacy is fake, and methods to find reliable online pharmacies. According to the FDA, only about 3% of online pharmacies have been reviewed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), which means it is far more likely patients could be engaging with less than reputable sellers.
Local pharmacists are likely to find it impossible to compete with the prices and convenience afforded by illegitimate online pharmacies. In part, this is due to the unethical and illegal practices the majority of these businesses utilize. Unfortunately, consumers are often not aware of the dangers associated with these websites until they have had their own negative experience. It is important that local pharmacies take the time to educate consumers on the potential risks of using an online pharmacy. By giving consumers the resources to learn more about the FDA rules regulating online pharmacies and the current safety issues, it becomes easier to show that local pharmacies are competitive with legitimate online pharmacies.