The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA‚ has issued a warning about online pharmacies, a number of which sell fraudulent and unregulated medicines. The FDA says a person’s health and life can be threatened by fraudulent websites.
Such sites are very sophisticated and look legitimate. However, the risks, according to the FDA, include:
- Counterfeit drugs: Drugs may look exactly like real, FDA medicines, but their quality and safety are unknown. They may be made in unsafe conditions or be contaminated, especially if made overseas.
- Illegitimate sellers: Under US standards labels must provide information about dangerous interactions, how to take the drug, and what to do if certain side effects occur. Often this information is not given, which can even result in the death of the patient.
- Fraudulent sites: Such sites sell drugs that are unapproved in the US.
- Medical history unknown: Whether legitimate or fraudulent sellers do not know your medical history, drug allergies or drug interaction risks.They could provide you with a drug that might have a fatal interaction.
- Dishonest dealers: Your personal information and credit card numbers could be sold, resulting in identity theft.
The FDA encourages buyers to thoroughly research an online site before ordering.
- The site should have a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal. This means that the site follows state and federal laws. VIPPS-approved web site are listed at www.vipps.info.
- The site should be licensed by the state board of pharmacy in the state in which the site operates. Information is available on www.nabp.net.
- The FDA also recommends that the company be located in the USA, have rigorous privacy policies, and require a prescription from a physician.
Other medical alerts:
Medical information online may be outdated and factually inaccurate. In some cases, information is not written by medical professionals, but by people with no medical background or knowledge. In some cases, the article was written by a non-expert, yet appears over an expert’s name. I have been contacted by people writing for certain medical sites seeking information about The Sandwich Generation, about which I am an expert. By the questions, I know these writers had no medical knowledge and knew nothing about the aging process or psychology.
To make sure the website is a legitimate source of information, ask yourself the following:
- Who runs the site? If the source is the government, a professional health care organization or a reputable college or university, the information is probably reliable. Beware of sites that bury contact information or are maintained by individuals.
- When was the site updated? The newer, the better, especially if you are looking for the latest research and treatment.
- Do the links work? Click a few and make sure they take you to another legitimate site. But you do need to be careful that the connecting site is in the US and not overseas.
- Who pays for the site? Sites that end in “.com” are paid for by for-profit companies that may be touting their own products as opposed to unbiased information.
Talk with your doctor before acting on anything you read online.
For quality information, some sites include: