Avoidable Safety Issues With Online Pharmacy Shopping: Failproof Drug Buying
Nowadays people use Internet to buy all sorts of things, including clothes, cosmetics, gadgets, food. It is considered to be safe enough. But what about ordering medicines online? Are there any risks associated with such shopping? Let’s find out.
Why Do Americans Have to Turn to Online Pharmacies?
As of today, in the USA there is much concern about the drug prices. According to the recent statistics, 24% of the working-age population and 23% of pensioners say they experience financial difficulties, when it comes to buying prescription medicines. 29% of US citizens confess that they have to skip the treatment courses due to money issues from time to time, and 8% feel the negative consequences for their health as a result of such interruptions.
In fact, US citizens have to pay the highest prices for medicines worldwide. Our close neighbor — Canada — takes the second place. Still, on average the difference in prices between the two markets mentioned reaches about 73%! And one should note that Canada is as well-developed as the USA.
At first glimpse there are no significant differences between these two markets. Still, there is one, and that is the governmental regulation of prices. In Canada, like in many other countries, pharmaceutical companies cannot set any prices they would like to. The authorities will not approve the prices that are higher than in the countries with the similar economic state. They have a list of such countries to refer to.
As for the US market, there are no price limits. So, manufacturers may raise their prices as high as customers will bear. Sure, if you suffer from some serious disease, you are forced to buy a medicine at any price. You cannot just refuse buying because you consider the price to be unreasonably high. In most cases that’s a matter of life and death. In fact, an American market is like a pot of gold for pharmaceutical companies. That seems to be unfair, doesn’t it?
79% of Americans consider prices at local drugstores to be unreasonable high. And millions of those, who cannot afford them anymore, opt for buying medicines online, on the foreign websites mostly.
Is it Safe to Buy Medications Online?
A lot of people suppose that off-line pharmacies are much more reliable than online ones. But in practice this statement turns out to be quite wrong. Let’s have a look at the results of the research, conducted by Roger Bate and Kimberly Hess.
They carried out an experiment. They chose 5 medicines that were frequently prescribed to Americans — Celebrex, Lipitor, Nexium, Viagra and Zoloft — and ordered them 55 different online pharmacies.
And the results were encouraging enough. The main problem was that some online pharmacies sent copies instead of original drugs (31 of 152 samples), and such substitutions could not be analyzed. To evaluate the quality of the identified drugs, the authors used Roman spectrometry. And only 3 samples of Viagra (out of 41) failed the test, they contained 0% of active ingredients.
One should also note that the authors placed orders on the websites from both white and black lists of the NABP and PharmacyChecker, so the failures were understandable. By the way, only one of the websites from the NABP white list sent the sample that could not be tested.
The authors of the study came to the conclusion that in most cases buying medications on the Internet was safe enough. All the websites that were recommended by both the NABP and PharmacyChecker sent the samples that successfully passed the test. So, they advised to rely on the common sense and the white lists compiled by the authoritative organizations while choosing the online pharmacy to buy from.
How to Choose the Trustworthy Pharmacy?
First of all, visit your doctor to discuss the health problems you have. Ask him to prescribe or to recommend the product that may help. Be sure to inform him about all the diseases or unpleasant symptoms you suffer from and specify all the drugs you take on a regular basis. Some online pharmacies do not ask for a prescription before sending medicines to their customers. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean, you should buy the products at your discretion. That`s a matter of your health and well-being, so it is highly recommended having a consultation with a professional.
Here are some pieces of advice that will help you find the right website:
- Check if the company is accredited by some reputable organization.
- See if the drugstore provides any contact information. You should have the opportunity to call or to write its representative in case of any problems or questions. Otherwise, it looks suspicious.
- Avoid working with the new entrants. It is preferable to order from the websites that have been working for at least a couple of years. Turning to a newly-opened company is a risky option, since you know nothing about its business policy.
- Check the reputation of the pharmacy. You can do that by reading reviews left by other customers on the Internet. If there are few negative reviews, it is OK, it is impossible to please everybody. And in case you cannot find any negative comments, that means the representatives of the distributor have made them disappear. That’s suspicious.
- Compare the prices on several websites. In Canada drugs are much more affordable than in the USA, but that doesn’t mean that you can get them for peanuts. If the prices are too low, there is a risk that you will be sent a counterfeit or no package at all.
- Examine the package received. If it looks suspicious, for example, there is no information about the sender or the origin of a product, be careful. It is also advisable to compare the look of the drug itself with, for example, a photo from an official website of a manufacturer. Keep in mind that if you get a counterfeit it may either produce no effect at all (as there is 0% of active ingredients) or even cause harm to you.
- If you can’t afford brand drugs, switch to generics (these are the copies of original medicines that contain the same active ingredients, but cost much less due to the fact that they do not require patenting and often come from the countries with the low level of salaries). It is safer to buy a high-quality generic, than a “brand” product of doubtful provenance.
Is It Legal to Use Foreign Pharmacies?
As it has been mentioned before, the majority of those who order drugs online, turn to foreign companies, since outside the USA prices are much more reasonable.
But one should keep in mind that buying medicines from abroad is prosecuted by law. So, why Americans keep on violating the law? Because there is the non-enforcement policy. The FDA does not welcome such actions, since it cannot guarantee that the products you buy are safe enough. However, you are not likely to be punished unless you are not going to resell the medicines you order from abroad and earn on the difference in prices. You are allowed to purchase medications for personal use only.
It is also worth mentioning that the situation may change in the future. The US government is struggling to fix the situation with unbearable prices. As of now, they are trying to legalize the importation of medicines from Canada as one of the possible solutions. And according to the results of the polls, 80% of Americans support the idea mentioned.
The main difficulty is that such a change to the national policy may lead to the conflicts with our neighbor — Canada. The population in the USA is significantly bigger than in Canada, so if Americans start buying drugs in Canada in wholesale numbers, it may lead to serious shortfalls in the supply and to price increases.
Sure, there are other ways out. For example, some politicians support the idea of introducing the system of the governmental price regulation, but it has not found enough support, as well. So, pharmaceutical companies are likely to keep on setting the overwhelming prices for US citizens in the nearest future.
At the moment if you do not want to overpay for your prescription medicines, you have nothing to do, but to search for a reliable online pharmacy and to order them from there.