Buyer Beware: Purchasing Medications Online Can Be Risky

Buyer Beware: Purchasing Medications Online Can Be Risky

Online shopping is a convenient way to get almost anything you need while saving money.  But, there are some significant risks involved when it comes to buying products such as prescription medication online.  

While some pharmacy websites are legal, it’s easy for someone to be fooled by illicit online pharmacies.  If you are considering buying medications online, make sure you take precautions to avoid putting yourself at risk of dangerous products or identity theft.   

Why Are Some Online Pharmacies Unsafe?

Pharmacies that operate illegally use fake “storefronts” to mimic licensed, legal pharmacies.  However, the medications they sell are not made with the FDA safety precautions required of legal pharmacies. Illicit pharmacy meds can be made relatively anywhere and could be fake or expired and contain dangerous additives.  

In general, if the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is a red flag that something is not legal.  Buying medicines online may save money, but the health issues caused by these products can be far more expensive. 

Warning Signs of Illicit Online Pharmacies

Not all online pharmacies are safe, so you need to know what to look for before ordering.  In addition to selling unsafe, fake medications, they don’t offer safeguards to protect your personal or financial information.  Furthermore, they may sell your private information and charge you for products you did not order or receive.

A major risk of online medications is that they contain too little or too much active ingredient.  These medications may fail to adequately treat your condition.  Another risk is that the meds may contain a different active ingredient or even a harmful, addictive substance such as fentanyl.

You should also know that illicit online drugs can have unexpected or dangerous interactions with other meds you’re taking.  The risk of adverse or allergic reactions is not worth the reduced cost.

So, what are the warning signs of an illicit online pharmacy?  You should look for the following:

  • No doctor’s prescription is required.
  • Damaged packaging, foreign labeling.
  • No expiration date.
  • Expired medication.
  • Pills that look different from the originals.
  • No licensed pharmacist on staff.
  • Not licensed in the U.S. or with a state board of pharmacy.

Moreover, improper storage may have affected the medication’s effectiveness, which can have significant consequences.  Keep in mind that these websites use photos of “doctors” and other deceptive sales techniques to make consumers believe the site is legitimate.

Examples of the Dangers of Using Illegal Online Pharmacies

Here are some examples of what can happen when you buy medications from an illicit online pharmacy:

  • A 30-year-old man has permanent brain damage after using a painkiller and an anxiety drug he obtained from an illicit online pharmacy.
  • A woman died from complications caused by heavy metal poisoning.  The contaminated prescription med had been shipped from overseas and contained deadly levels of titanium, lead, and arsenic.
  • In Texas, an ER doctor suffered a stroke after ingesting medication he ordered from an illicit online pharmacy.  The drug contained a controlled substance rather than the legal ingredients he needed.
  • A 23-year-old medical student bought a popular diet pill online.  The pills contained a pesticide that causes lethal consequences to humans.

Illicit online pharmacies are often run by criminal networks that intentionally sell counterfeit drugs without any concern for the risks they pose to unsuspecting individuals.  The only thing on their mind is making money. 

The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) reports that more than 35,000 to 50,000 online pharmacies are actively selling drugs.  However, a shocking 95% of them are illegal.

Signs of a Safe Online Pharmacy

To ensure that you will get reliable, effective medications, look for the following signs of a safe online pharmacy:

  • The pharmacy requires a doctor’s prescription.
  • A licensed pharmacist is on staff and available to answer your questions.
  • The pharmacy is located at a physical street address and phone number.

The FDA estimates that one in four Americans have purchased prescriptions online.  With thousands of illicit pharmacies operating, these individuals are placing themselves at risk for fraud and health issues.

With so much at risk, it’s important that you take time to ensure that you are ordering from a legitimate online pharmacy.   Use the FDA’s BeSafeRx location tool to check a pharmacy’s legitimacy.

Customized Addiction Treatment at Design for Change Recovery

It is easy for someone to obtain opioids or other addictive medications through illegal online pharmacies.  Drug addictions and overdoses will continue to rise as long as these drugs are easily accessible.

If you are struggling to control your substance use, we can help.  At Design for Change Recovery, we strive to reduce the growing number of addictions and overdoses by offering effective treatment.  Our program was designed to treat the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of addiction in order to maximize recovery success. 

Contact our Lancaster, CA facility to learn more about our evidence-based treatment options.  One of our representatives will be available to recommend a customized treatment plan that is right for you.

For more information:

  • fda.gov/. – How to Buy Medicines Safely From an Online Pharmacy
  • fraud.org/ – Risks to Your Health – and Wallet
  • usnews.com/ – Using an Online Pharmacy to Buy Meds? It’s Buyer Beware, FDA Says
  • fda.gov/– Locate a State-Licensed Online Pharmacy
  • buysaferx.pharmacy/ – The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies: Public Awareness
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