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Health Care Fraud & You

How to Protect Yourself From Online Pharmacy Fraud

While buying medications online can help you save money, there are also many risks involved. Most online pharmacies follow the laws and regulations to put your health safety first. But some online pharmacies are simply out to make a quick buck at your expense. These businesses may put your health at risk.

 Mike Kemp/Rubberball/Corbis

Some online pharmacies are simply out to make a quick buck at your expense. These businesses may put your health at risk.

Shady online pharmacy sites fill orders without prescriptions. They may pay a doctor to take just a quick glance at a brief medical questionnaire you’ve filled out. Not actually knowing if you’re using other medications that could cause complications, these pharmacy sites can ship you medicine that isn't right for you.

Online pharmacy sites have been known to sell products that are past their expiration date, are fake, have dangerous ingredients, or have not been made using safe or approved standards. You may be sent the wrong dose of your medication, or no medication at all.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Be sure that any online pharmacy you use requires a prescription from a licensed doctor. Do not deal with a website that will provide you with drugs based only on an online questionnaire. Having a prescription ensures the necessary partnership between your health care provider and a pharmacist. It’s best to make purchases at locations where a pharmacist will consult with your health care provider about dosages, substitutions and interactions.
  • Look for contact information on the website, such as a street address or telephone number. If you can’t find any information about how to get in touch with the business, it may be a tip that they don’t want you or regulators to know who or where they are.
  • Protect your privacy. Give personal information such as your Social Security number, credit card or health history on a website only if you have verified the business won’t sell your personal information and their website is secure. Look for the “s” in the web address — as in https:// — and read the website’s privacy policy.
  • Use an online pharmacy that lets you track your order through an external source, such as FedEx, UPS or the U.S. Postal Service. That way, if an order doesn’t arrive as expected, you'll be able to track what happened.
  • Look closely at membership fees. Some sites charge you a subscription fee but then only provide you with a list of other pharmacy websites.
     
  • Check to see if the pharmacy is safe and legal in your state. You can find out if the online pharmacy is licensed to do business in your state at www.fda.gov/BeSafeRx.
     
  • The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has a program  that checks online pharmacies to make sure they meet national and state rules. You can find those pharmacies at vipps.nabp.net.
     
  • If you're considering ordering drugs from a Canadian pharmacy, check to make sure it's a member of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA).
     
  • Report problems with online pharmacies or the unlawful sale of drugs  to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem.

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