Is That Pharmacy Safe?
Protect Yourself from Rogue Internet Sites
Knowing the signs of a rogue Web site will help you stay away from sites that may be selling prescription drugs that are counterfeit, contaminated, or otherwise unsafe. Purchasing from a rogue Web site can put you and your family at risk. The best way to know if a Web site is legitimate is by looking for the VIPPS accreditation Seal.
When reviewing Web sites to determine if they should be added to the Not Recommended list, NABP looks for evidence that they are following pharmacy laws and practice standards. The eight areas listed below are excellent indicators of a rogue Internet drug outlet. If you come across any Web sites with the following characteristics, please send the site information to NABP using the Report a Site form.
- No prescription required: Internet drug outlets are suspect if they dispense prescription medicine without requiring the patient or doctor to submit a prescription, or without contacting the patient’s doctor to obtain a valid prescription.
- Prescription based solely upon online questionnaire: Be wary of Internet drug outlets that dispense prescription medicines based solely on the patient completing an online questionnaire without having a pre-existing relationship with the doctor, including an in-person physical examination. Most state boards of pharmacy, boards of medicine, US Food and Drug Administration, US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federation of State Medical Boards, the American Medical Association, and NABP agree that this practice is illegal or fails to meet the standard of care.
- No phone number or street address: Internet drug outlets should have a toll-free phone number as well as a street address posted on their Web sites. Drug outlets that allow customers to communicate with them only by e-mail should be avoided.
- No pharmacist consultation: Legitimate pharmacies allow patients to contact pharmacists if they have questions about their medications, whether by phone or secure Web-based communication.
- Waivers: Legitimate pharmacies do not require patients to sign waivers to place the patient in legal jeopardy or waive all rights before providing medication.
- Limited medicines: Many untrustworthy Internet drug outlets offer only a limited number of medicines, particularly “lifestyle” or controlled substance medicines that treat such conditions as impotence, obesity, herpes, pain, and acne.
- International Web sites: Because foreign medicines purchased online are unapproved and not subject to the safety and efficacy standards of US Food and Drug Administration, their authenticity, purity, and safety are unknown. The safety and security of the sources from which these Web outlets obtain foreign medicines is also unknown. Some Web outlets that claim to be Canadian pharmacies actually sell medicines obtained from developing countries in Asia, Central America, the Middle East, or Eastern Europe, where regulations are more lax, and the prevalence of counterfeit medicines is significantly higher than in the United States.
- Spam solicitations: Many Internet operations that advertise through unsolicited e-mail messages (ie, spam) operate illegally and are not a trustworthy source for obtaining anything, especially something as critical as prescription medicine. According to the Federal Trade Commission, spam e-mails can infect computers with spyware that can slow computer performance, install software that can record and report a customer’s every keystroke, spread computer viruses, and “hijack” a consumer’s computer to distribute more spam. Deceptive spam is also sometimes used to trick consumers into divulging sensitive or personal information, including credit card numbers and other financial data.
For more information on why a Web site is placed on the Not Recommended list see Why Not Recommended.