Reasons why you shouldn’t buy your drugs from Amazon

Posted on October 23, 2014

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Not picking on Amazon, I love Amazon.

It’s one of America’s largest retailers, and one of my most cherished one-stop shop for everything. From the comfort of my living room and a few clicks on my computer, I can get almost anything in two-days (Hello Amazon Prime!).

Therefore, I am not going to assume that you were intentionally looking for ways to break the law while searching for “acne medications” or “sleep meds” on any e-commerce website. But the first and most important reason why you shouldn’t buy drugs from Amazon is:

  • IT MAY BE ILLEGAL: Regardless of how many stars it received or how many rave reviews have been written about it, if you purchase a “prescription only” product on Amazon, you may have broken the law. Amazon operates through several third-party sellers who are able to list products on sale without much restriction. Drugs are a good percentage of these products and if they are classed as “rx only” by the FDA, selling them without a pharmacy license and prescription is flat out illegal. Also, purchasing them (especially controlled substances) may carry the risk of being slapped with a federal felony indictment.

Now that we’ve got the prescription-only drugs out of the way, here are some reasons that mostly apply to supplements and over-the-counter drugs:

  1. It may be counterfeit and probably dangerous:  You know the saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”, well that applies a lot to buying drugs/supplements on the internet. Think about this; if a drug normally costs $100, what shortcut was made in order to be able to price it at $9? It costs a lot of money to make quality drugs, therefore when third-party sellers undercut the price of legitimate companies, you should be very suspicious. A common method used by counterfeiters is create a drug that mirrors a common name-brand drug, and also create lookalike packaging which then allows them sell the replica drug on the Internet for a “discounted” price. These counterfeit drugs may turn out to be worthless at best, or harmful at worst; costing you your health, and possibly even your life.
  2. It may be expired and repackaged as new: In this case, the drug is actually genuine because third-party sellers have legitimately purchased them (usually at a huge discount) just before they expired. They then change the expiry date on the label, and tout the drug as new and ready to be resold. Sometimes they even mix these with counterfeit drugs to “bulk up” their inventory and consumers are none the wiser.
  3. It may have been stolen: Sometimes drugs are stolen from drug company warehouses, and end up on the internet for cheap.
  4. It may not come with the proper safety warnings and instructions or have unexpected side effects

Having said that, there are many websites that operate legally and offer convenience, privacy, and safeguards for purchasing medicines. You just need to know how to spot them. Here are some tips from the Food and Drug Administration on how to spot a fake online website and how to protect yourself.

Signs of a trustworthy website/seller

  • It’s located in the United States.
  • It’s licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website is operating. A list of these boards is available at the website of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
  • It has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
  • It requires a prescription for prescription medicines from your doctor or another health care professional who is licensed to prescribe medicines.
  • It provides contact information and allows you to talk to a person if you have problems or questions.
  • Check on a website for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ Seal, also known as the VIPPS® Seal, which means that the Internet pharmacy has met state licensure requirements

How to Protect Yourself

  • Only buy from state-licensed pharmacy websites located in the U.S.
  • Don’t buy from websites that sell prescription drugs without a prescription.
  • Don’t buy from websites that offer to prescribe a drug for the first time without a physical exam by your doctor or by answering an online questionnaire.
  • Check with your state board of pharmacy or the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to see if an online pharmacy has a valid pharmacy license and meets state quality standards.
  • Look for privacy and security policies that are easy to find and easy to understand.
  • Don’t give any personal information—such as a social security number, credit card information, or medical or health history—unless you are sure the website will keep your information safe and private.
  • Use legitimate websites that have a licensed pharmacist to answer your question.
  • Make sure that the website will not sell your personal information, unless you agree.
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