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Shopping the Internet for prescription medication

Published March 26. 2013 05:03PM

Q. Is it safe to buy medicine online?

Only if you are very careful. There are many fraudulent operators on the Internet.

According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), the professional organization that represents the state agencies that license pharmacies, only 3 percent of online websites reviewed appear to meet state and federal pharmacy laws.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns you to beware of online pharmacies that:

• Offer very low drug prices that seem too good to be true.

• Are located outside the United States.

• Are not licensed in the United States by a state agency.

• Allow you to buy medicine without a prescription or by asking you to complete an online survey instead of requiring a prescription.

• Do not have a licensed pharmacist available for consultation.

• Send spam or unsolicited email offering deep discounts on medicine.

• Ship prescriptions worldwide.

• Ship drugs from a foreign country.

The FDA is conducting a public education campaign called BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy to help consumers understand and minimize the risks of buying medicines online.

The risks include buying medicine that is counterfeit, contaminated, expired, not FDA-approved, or that contains none of the necessary active ingredient.

The medicine you buy with your computer may also have too much or too little of the active ingredient. In the worst-case scenario, you will buy medicine with the wrong active ingredient.

So, how should you proceed if you want to buy medicines online?

First, go to your doctor to get prescriptions.

Then, buy from a licensed pharmacy. Some websites have a seal of approval from Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). If not, check the NABP to see if he online pharmacy is licensed. Go to:

Make sure the website offers the services of a registered pharmacist. Legitimate online pharmacies have pharmacists you can consult.

Often, these sites offer a toll-free number to connect with a pharmacist.

Just because you are buying online doesn't guarantee that you will get the best price. Do some comparison shopping at your local drug stores.

The FDA encourages consumers to report suspected fraudulent sales of medical products on the Internet. Go to:

The FDA also wants consumers to report any adverse effects from any medical product.

Go to:

The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (TIMES NEWS) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the author do not necessarily state or reflect those of the TIMES NEWS.

The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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