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Online and Mail-Order Pharmacies: How to Be Safe

Online Pharmacies Often Deliver the Wrong Goods

Although mail-order pharmacies usually have a web site, the similarity between mail order and many online pharmacies ends there. In a review of 8,000 online pharmacies, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found only 4% that met its safety standards. "There are a lot of counterfeit drugs and [old] drugs that should have been destroyed but ended up back on the market," says Corey Sawaya, RPh, pharmacy manager of Acme Pharmacy in Stow, Ohio.

4 Red Flags of a Rogue Pharmacy

  • No Prescription Required!
    Many rogue pharmacies are happy to bypass a doctor’s prescription in order to win your business. The problem is "there’s no monitoring of the underlying disease to see if the drug is working," says Sagall. Bottom line, selling prescription drugs without a prescription is illegal, dangerous, and the sign of a rogue pharmacy.
  • Location Unknown
    If you don’t know where a pharmacy operates, you don’t know what regulations it follows -- if any. "They’ve busted some of these operations and found unsanitary conditions and drugs stored in unmarked containers," says Sawaya. While the importance of clean conditions is obvious, clear, accurate labeling is another important aspect of pharmacy safety. "Everything has to have a lot number and an expiration date." 
  • Lowest Prices!
    Unregulated pharmacies can avoid the costs of watching out for your safety. In one instance, people who ordered drugs online for anxiety, depression, and insomnia received a strong antipsychotic instead. These people had no way of knowing what the pills actually contained, and several had side effects serious enough to require emergency treatment.
  • Viagra in Your Email!
    When purchasing drugs online, take a "don’t call me, I’ll call you," position. Chances are, the email clogging your inbox came from hackers trying to get access to your personal data. They may try to trick you into clicking on a link or downloading a document that unleashes malware that will invade your computer files.

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