The dangers of buying drugs online

Can cheaper prices online really mean you're getting a good deal?

Ninety-five percent of websites selling prescription drugs online are doing so illegally.

Here's what to look out for:

From 2006 to 2017, the prices for most chronic-use name brand prescription drugs have soared 214%, leading many people to go online to buy their medication cheaper.

"An easy availability for anyone to go online and purchase these drugs even in bulk quantities and have them shipped directly to their home," says Gary Warner, director of research and computer forensics at UAB.

The problem?

"What people think they're taking is not what they are taking. Just in Arizona, they seized over 350,000 fentanyl pills that were labeled as OxyContin," Warner says.

But now researchers at UAB are partnering with Facebook to crack down on these illicit drug sales, especially when it comes to opioid use.

The team has developed an algorithm that can recognize the newest slang for street drugs, such as fentanyl, and automatically flag the content for removal so users can't get them.

They've also been cracking down on fake online pharmacies.

So how can you tell what's fake from real?

"The thing you want to look for when buying your drugs online are do they really require a prescription?" advises Elizabeth Gardner, PhD, the director of graduate studies in forensic science at UAB.

If not, then that could be a sign that the pharmacy you are working with is not legitimate.

Some other tips: They should have FDA approval. Even a generic drug needs it.

Check where the webpage is located and how long it's been around.

Some anti-phishing software, such as Netcraft, allows users to see exactly where the website is based.

And always make sure instructions on how to take the drug are included in the packaging.

If you don't have that, you're not getting the information you need.

Remember, consumers not only put their health at risk buying prescription drugs online, but they can also be charged with a felony.

Buying drugs without a prescription or using a prescription without an in-person doctor-patient interaction is not considered legitimate under the law.



DANGERS OF BUYING DRUGS ONLINE REPORT #2676

BACKGROUND: Consumers are using the internet for health reasons more than ever. According to the market research firm Cyber Dialogue Inc., health concerns are the sixth most common reason people go online. For some people, buying prescription drugs online offers advantages not available from a local drugstore, including greater availability of drugs for those who live far from the pharmacy, ease of comparative shopping among many sites to find the best prices and products, greater convenience and variety of products, easier access to written product information and references to other sources than in traditional storefront pharmacies, and the ability for consumers to order products and consult with a pharmacist in the privacy of their homes. However, consumers need to make sure the site requires a prescription and has a pharmacist available for questions. They should only buy from licensed pharmacies located in the United States. And, be sure not to provide personal information such as credit card numbers unless they are sure the site will protect them. (Source: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/buying-drugs-online-convenient-private-beware-rogue-sites#1 and https://www.fda.gov/drugs/buying-using-medicine-safely/quick-tips-buying-medicines-over-internet)

RED FLAGS OF BUYING DRUGS ONLINE: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that there are many rogue online pharmacies that claim to sell prescription medicines at deeply discounted prices, often without requiring a valid prescription. These pharmacies often sell unapproved or counterfeit medicines outside the safeguards followed by licensed pharmacies. These rogue sites often prominently display a Canadian flag but may actually be operated by criminals from the other side of the globe with no connection to Canada. Some ways to identify a safe online pharmacy is that they require a valid prescription from a doctor or another licensed health care professional, are licensed by your state board of pharmacy, or equivalent state agency, and has a U.S. state-licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions. Another way to check on a website is to look for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice SitesTM 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. (Source: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/how-buy-medicines-safely-online-pharmacy)

RAMIFICATIONS OF ONLINE DRUG PURCHASE: Prescriptions written by "cyber doctors" relying on online questionnaires are not legitimate under the law. Just as buying controlled substances online without a valid prescription may be punishable by imprisonment under federal law. Often drugs ordered from rogue websites come from foreign countries. It is a felony to import drugs into the United States and ship to a non-DEA registrant. Buying drugs online is also very dangerous. The American Medical Association and state boards of medicine and pharmacy have all condemned the practice of cyber doctors issuing online prescriptions as unacceptable medical care. Drugs delivered by rogue websites may be the wrong drugs, adulterated or expired, the wrong dosage strength, or have no dosage directions or warnings. DEA is targeting rogue online pharmacies for prosecution and shutting down these illegal websites. (Source: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/consumer_alert.htm)