Is Online Pharmacy a Boon or Bane?
An online pharmacy is defined as an internet-based vendor that sells medicines. It includes both legitimate and illegitimate pharmacies. Online branches of “brick-and-mortar” pharmacies, independent internet-only sites, and sites representing partnerships among multiple pharmacies come under online pharmacies.
It is essential to retain customer records including the name of the patient, practitioner, and contact details for every Schedule H and Schedule X medicine sold by the pharmacy. Selling medicines at a cost higher than the maximum retail price and selling medicines to minors (under age 18) is strictly prohibited.
Furthermore, there are techno-legal requirements related to privacy, data protection, internet advertising, and diligence to cyber laws that are required to be complied with, by these pharmacies.
In what way online pharmacy is a boon?
Online pharmacies are popular as they offer increased access with limited mobility, better pricing, and greater convenience for consumers. They offer personalized medicine reminder alerts, faster doorstep delivery, reduce transactional costs, and proper validation of prescriptions through licensed pharmacists. The significant reduction in transactional costs is passed onto consumers in the form of reduced costs. Furthermore, information about adverse effects and substitutes is also available on these sites.
Hence, consumers believe that the medications they receive from online pharmacies are comparable to medicines sold in the “brick-and-mortar pharmacies.”
How does online pharmacy turn out to be a bane?
Although online pharmacies could be a boon for consumers, they have acquired an unregulated manner of functioning. Lack of monitoring might encourage fraudulent practices such as sending generic variants especially when the physician has prescribed a brand name. Furthermore, illegal websites may disappear without leaving any trace, at the slightest hint of regulatory action.
The legitimate sites have proper technology in place to ensure security despite using “cookies” for visitor data collection.
In the year 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with INTERPOL and 200 law enforcement agencies across the world took global action against online pharmacies, where 237 people were arrested and more than 10,600 illicit websites were shut down.
In addition, the Pharmaceutical Crime Program supported by major pharmaceutical companies in 2013 helped in finding out illicit sites.
Furthermore, reputed sites like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo permit only online pharmacies accredited through Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program to advertise in the U.S. Even the credit card companies like VISA decline payments to online pharmacies that are not VIPPS-certified.
What should consumers do to curb fraudulent practices?
Consumer awareness is the major step to curbing such fraudulent practices. They should be educated about the significance of verifying the authenticity of the service provider as well as their medications. They should know which sites should be avoided from buying medications.
Proper authenticated online pharmacies like LitonRx have uncomplicated privacy and security guidelines, well-defined quality benchmarks, a verifiable physical address as well as licensed pharmacists on the roll.
Providers should be in connection with legitimate and reputable online pharmacies that they may recommend to their patients. These measures coupled with timely monitoring from regulators can help the consumer reap rich benefits of these pharmacies, without any inherent risk.
Furthermore, you can do the following to find out if an online pharmacy is registered and eligible to sell medications.
- Make sure to check the registration number of the online pharmacy and cross-verify the number with the website of the regulatory body. You can find the list of fake online drug stores blacklisted by the regulatory body
- A legitimate online pharmacy should ask for a prescription before selling the medications. If not, avoid buying medication from that online pharmacy site
- Search the internet to find out if there are any complaints lodged against the specific online pharmacy. In case you come across any warnings or recommendations, step back from opting for that online pharmacy
- Check the physical address of the online pharmacy. If the address is not available or the provided address doesn’t exist, avoid buying your medications from that pharmacy
- Check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to find out if the online pharmacy site is properly licensed. You can visit the website atwww.nabp.net
- Avoid connecting with sites that have no access to a registered pharmacist to clarify or answer your questions
- Stay away from sites that advertise a "new cure" for any ailment
In case you suspect a site is illegal, report it to FDA by sending an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.Regarding consumer awareness, Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., Medical Officer in FDA's Office of Policy, Planning, and Legislation, said "Consumers need to be cautious. You should use the same kind of common sense you use when buying from any business. You look for a reputable dealer. You get recommendations from friends. You check the place out."