Beware when shopping for prescription drugs online

Millions of people turn to the Internet for discounted prescription drugs. It seems to be convenient and saves money and time. However, the Better Business Bureau suggest that you could put your health at risk if you’re not careful.

About 70 percent of Americans take some sort of prescription drug. Americans spent more than $235 billion in the U.S. last year, with about $9 billion spent in Ohio, according to the BBB. However, if you’re purchasing prescription drugs online, you could get medicine manufactured overseas, which may be manufactured under different specifications and don’t meet U.S. requirements.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report found that 85 percent of medication supposedly shipped from Canadian online pharmacies actually came from manufacturers in two dozen different countries. Many of these products intercepted were counterfeit. When shopping for prescription drugs, your BBB offers these tips:

  • Avoid a website offering to fill an order without a prescription. A legitimate pharmacy will not fill an order without a prescription and medication should not be taken without being examined by your doctor.
  • Find an online pharmacy with a licensed pharmacist.
  • Beware of drugs not approved by the FDA. These medications didn’t go through clinical trials and may be counterfeit or have potentially harmful, even lethal side effects.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited offers about prescription drugs and never click on links from unknown sources. These sites may download malware on your computer or look for access to your personal information.
  • Avoid websites that don’t provide U.S. contact information. In case of an emergency, it’s important to be able to verify contact information.
  • Avoid online pharmacists who offer prices dramatically lower than the competition.
  • Check with your state board of pharmacy or the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to see if an online pharmacy has a valid pharmacy license and meets state quality standards.
  • Don’t give any personal information (social security number, credit card numbers or health history) unless you are sure the website is legitimate.
  • Read the whole product description, including the fine print.
  • Use a credit card for payment. A credit card allows you to dispute charges for the purchase.

To help with your online prescription drug search, check with the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site which was developed to protect the public from shady online drug retailers. For more information, visit https://vipps.nabp.net.

You also can always get help from the BBB, such as a list of BBB Accredited Businesses/Charities and business reviews on ones you’re considering. For more information, visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

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John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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