The cost of prescriptions is through the roof, even with insurance. So it can be tempting to seize a bargain anywhere you can get it. Unfortunately, if prescription costs seem too good to be true, chances are that they are. Most of the so-called prescription bargains are to be found online; however, as with any Internet transaction, you should exercise extreme caution when ordering drugs on the computer.
This is especially the case in light of a June announcement by the FDA that they were making a pharmaceutical crackdown and had already shut down 1,677 online pharmacies. According to the administration, these companies were selling counterfeit medications or were not following legally mandated safety requirements. They also issued warnings to other sites, arrested 58 people, and seized $41 million in illegal medications. The problem is not isolated to U.S. companies; according to Interpol, more than 100 countries were involved in the scheme.
False pharmacies can cause huge health problems for those who purchase drugs from them. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told CNN: “It impacts consumers every day. These products can have none of the active ingredient that people need for the treatment of their disease. They can have too much or too little (of the ingredient); they can have toxic ingredients, and they can prevent patients from getting the actual medications that they badly need to treat their disease.”
In short, it is a serious form of medical malpractice, and it’s anticipated that the pharmaceutical industry (or at least the scam companies in the industry) will soon be facing a rash of malpractice claims.
However, there are still plenty of fake companies out there, and consumers should be vigilant in protecting themselves from falling for these scams. First of all, be careful of companies that sound real. Carefully check the name of the company you are dealing with. For example, one company the FDA shut down was Walgreens-Store.com. Consumers thought they were purchasing from the reputable drug store chain, but in fact, their website is Walgreens.com.
If you want to be sure that you are buying medicine from a legitimate company, visit the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s website. They have a list of pharmacies that meet proper standards and safety protocols. Some of these standards include obeying all federal and state laws, being located in the U.S., and not having had previous significant disciplinary measures taken against it.
This is not to say that all online companies are scams or that there are not valid Internet pharmaceutical companies in Canada. However, you do need to exercise extreme caution. AARP offers some invaluable suggestions on how to avoid a pharmaceutical scam, and of course, these tips apply to people of all ages.
- Never deal with a company that offers medication without a proper prescription. If a site will provide you with drugs based on an online questionnaire, avoid it at all costs.
- Look for a physical address or phone number on the site. If there isn’t one, they may be trying to hide from authorities, and it is a good sign that the company is a scam.
- Only order from companies that allow you to track your order through FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or similar companies. That way, you have legal and financial protection if you never receive your order.
- Do not give out personal information such as credit card number, medical history, or Social Security number unless you are positive that the company will not sell or give out your information. You can make sure of this by checking the web address. If it has an “s” in it, (i.e. https), it is secure. If it does not (i.e., http), stay away.
- In general, it is better to order domestically, but if you really want to order from a Canadian company, make sure it is legitimate by checking the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.
The fight against pharmaceutical scams is ongoing, and because it is a multimillion dollar industry with international cooperation, it will probably never be fully eradicated. However, you can do your part to curtail this problem. If you experience or suspect illegal pharmaceutical sales, report it to the FDA atwww.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem. In this way, you can save other people from falling into a financial and medical trap.
About the Author: Andrew Y. Winston is a partner at The Law Offices of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”