Consumer News

Rogue Internet Pharmacies: Easy, Cheap, But Unsafe

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Potentially deadly designer drugs are on the rise, offering a "legal high." Creative Commons

Many Americans turn to Internet pharmacies in the hopes of finding easily-accessible, cheaper drugs online, but are often unaware of their safety hazards. According to USA Today, Internet pharmacies have been selling "misbranded, adulterated and counterfeit drugs" at cheaper prices online, often using deceiving names like c-v-s-pharmacy.com to fool consumers into believing they are legitimate.

In a recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that rogue Internet pharmacies violate numerous federal and state laws, illegally shipping drugs that haven't been approved by the FDA. The report states that rogue Internet pharmacies are "complex, global operations" that are difficult to investigate, and the website operators often disguise their identities and are located abroad.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) warns that since these drugs are unregulated, it's nearly impossible to know whether the medication is contaminated, expired, counterfeit, or sub-potent. In April 2013, NABP released that 97 percent of online pharmacies did not comply with U.S. pharmacy laws.

Often, these rogue websites claim they are "Canadian" when in fact they gather and ship medications from parts of the world where quality standards are lower, such as Asia, South America or Eastern Europe.

In June, the FDA shut down over 1,600 online pharmacies that operated in an organized crime network under a "Canadian pharmacy" banner, seizing more than 41$ million worth of illegal medication. It was the largest Internet-based enforcement action, which involved INTERPOL as well as other international medical organizations.

NABP recommends finding sites through VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites), or referring to LegitScript.com, which it says is the only website that adheres to NABP standards.

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