The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to warn consumers about the possible dangers of buying medicines over the Internet. Some Web sites sell prescription and over-the-counter drugs that may not be safe to use and could put people's health at risk.
So how can you protect yourself? FDA says that consumers should know how to recognize a legal Internet pharmacy and how to buy medicines online safely.
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Buying prescription and over-the-counter drugs on the Internet from a company you don't know means you may not know exactly what you're getting.
There are many Web sites that operate legally and offer convenience, privacy, and safeguards for purchasing medicines. But there are also many “rogue Web sites” that offer to sell potentially dangerous drugs that have not been checked for safety or effectiveness. Though a rogue site may look professional and legitimate, it could actually be an illegal operation.
These rogue sites often sell unapproved drugs, drugs that contain the wrong active ingredient, drugs that may contain too much or too little of the active ingredient, or drugs that contain dangerous ingredients. Some Web sites sell counterfeit drugs that may look exactly like real FDA-approved medicines, but their quality and safety are unknown.
Signs of a trustworthy Web site
It's located in the United States.
It's licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the Web site is operating (visit www.nabp.info for a list of state boards of pharmacy).
It has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
It requires a prescription for prescription medicines from your doctor or another health care professional who is licensed to prescribe medicines.
It provides contact information and allows you to talk to a person if you have problems or questions.
Another way to check on a Web site is to look for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ Seal, also known as VIPPS® Seal.
This seal means that the Internet pharmacy is safe to use because it has met state licensure requirements, as well as other NABP criteria. Legitimate pharmacies that carry the VIPPS® seal are listed at www.vipps.info
Signs of an unsafe Web site
It sends you drugs with unknown quality or origin.
It gives you the wrong drug or another dangerous product for your illness.
It doesn't provide a way to contact the Web site by phone.
It offers prices that are dramatically lower than the competition.
It may offer to sell prescription drugs without a prescription-this is against the law!