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"Safely Buying Prescription Drugs Online: The Comprehensive Guide"
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Hopefully, you’re excited about the prospect of saving money by purchasing your medications online.
However, you may still have some questions about finding a safe and legitimate pharmacy to use—one that you can trust to send you authentic medications and keep your personal information private.
You have plenty of support on your side to help you navigate your way through these waters. Many organizations are working hard to ensure that you are able to get safe, affordable medications from online pharmacies. For more information and advice, we recommend you visit the websites of these organizations.
The Better Business Bureau — www.bbb.org
Perhaps one of the most famous consumer organizations, the Better Business Bureau logs information about businesses in both the United States and Canada. They have set Standards of Trust that they use when evaluating businesses to determine whether they qualify for accreditation, and they continuously monitor companies for compliance with these standards.
Additionally, the Better Business Bureau is the place to go to report complaints and scams. They investigate these reports and make a ruling as to whether the complaint was founded or unfounded. You can search businesses (including online pharmacies) by name to see whether they have Better Business Bureau accreditation and also see any history of complaints.
PharmacyChecker — www.pharmacychecker.com
This independent rating company uses its own system of checkpoints to determine whether online pharmacies meet a set of standards, including:
A pharmacy that meets all of these criteria will earn a 5-Check rating from PharmacyChecker. Additionally, the company also provides a place for consumers to leave reviews and ratings of pharmacies.
eDrugSearch — www.edrugsearch.com
Like PharmacyChecker, eDrugSearch is an independent company that collects and compiles information about online pharmacies. They give a star-based rating of one to five stars depending on the pharmacy’s adherence to principles along the same lines as PharmacyChecker. Pharmacies do have to pay for a listing on eDrugSearch, however, so be aware that not all genuine pharmacies may be listed on this site.
Patients can also leave reviews about pharmacies on eDrugSearch.
In both the United States and Canada, pharmacies are licensed by independent organizations. In the U.S., pharmacies are licensed and inspected by each state’s Board of Pharmacy, which is a division of the state’s Department of Health. You can check with the Board of Pharmacy website in each state to learn the status of a facility’s license and even file a complaint against a facility or an employee.
When searching for online pharmacies in Canada that serve international clientele, you will want to check with two organizations that accredit online and international licensed pharmacies—the Canadian International Pharmacy Association and the provincial international pharmacy association in charge of overseeing the pharmacy.
The Canadian International Pharmacy Association – www.cipa.com
The CIPA provides accreditation to pharmacies serving international clients. The association was founded in 2002, and CIPA members maintain perfect safety records. (http://www.cipa.com/about/)
All CIPA-certified pharmacies must adhere to a strict list of rules, including:
The CIPA also allows both U.S. and Canadian consumers to file complaints about online pharmacies.
Because CIPA certification is such a desired quality when purchasing from online pharmacies, some rogue pharmacies have copied and pasted the logo to use fraudulently on their own sites. Before doing business with an online pharmacy, visit the verification page of the CIPA website at www.cipa.com and check for yourself to make sure that the pharmacy is in fact CIPA certified.
International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia — www.ipabc.ca
Manitoba International Pharmacists Association
The International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia and the Manitoba International Pharmacists Association are the provincial international pharmacy associations that provide accreditation to international online pharmacies in addition to the accreditation provided by CIPA. The pharmacy’s website should state which association they are affiliated with, but you should still verify this through the website of the association.
Unfortunately, the U.S. FDA has not embraced international pharmacies. While they regularly take action against rogue pharmacies, shutting them down, and seizing millions of dollars worth of illegal and counterfeit medications, they have chosen to lump legitimate online pharmacies in with the rogue pharmacies. They claim that U.S. citizens who use any online international pharmacy—even those fully accredited by independent organizations and dedicated to protecting patient safety—are at risk for purchasing counterfeit or unsanctioned medications.
Despite these dire warnings from the FDA, the truth is that there are no reported incidents of a patient receiving a counterfeit or unsafe medication from an accredited and legitimate online Canadian pharmacy.
Health Canada — www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Health Canada is Canada’s federal department of health. Their website contains important information for American consumers.
One of the most helpful features of the Health Canada website for consumers looking to purchase medication online is Canada’s drug product database (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/pdl-ord/pdl_list_fin_ord-eng.php), which allows you to determine whether a medication being offered by a purported online Canadian pharmacy is actually a real and legal medication or if it is possibly a counterfeit. You can also look up Canada’s requirements and regulations for advertising to determine whether the pharmacy you are considering is following the law.
If things do go wrong, you still have options. Plenty of agencies are available to assist you and provide advice if you are a victim of online fraud. The first place to start is your credit card company. If you are concerned that your card information has been stolen, call your credit card company and report it right away. In most cases, you will not be held responsible for fraudulent purchases on your account. You will also need to check your credit report, which you can do by visiting the websites of the three credit reporting agencies Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion and requesting your credit report. The law allows you to receive a free copy of your credit report every year. If you find any transactions that are fishy, follow the steps listed on the website to file a dispute.
You can also file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx), part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Contact the Better Business Bureau (https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started) and file a complaint with them as well. If the business in question has a legitimate trust seal, contact the company that provided that seal and notify them of problem. If you discover that the business is fraudulently using the trust seal logo, you can still call the company associated with the trust seal as many of these companies want to be notified of fraudulent use of their logo.