Sign In
Illegal Online Pharmacies: What Your Patients Need to Know

Illegal Online Pharmacies: What Your Patients Need to Know by Elements magazine |

January 16, 2017

Are your patients purchasing any of their prescriptions online?

Rising drug costs combined with the convenience of technology may be influencing many patients to look for alternative ways to purchase their drugs. And, the solution seems to be buying medications over the internet.

Unfortunately, many patients are unaware of the dangers that come with purchasing prescription medications online.

While there are many legitimate U.S. online pharmacies, there’s also a large number of illegal online pharmacies that take advantage of consumers and endanger patients’ health and wellbeing.

Of the more than 11,000 websites selling prescription medications, 96 percent appear to be in conflict with U.S. laws and pharmacy practice standards, according to an October 2016 report by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

Not only are these pharmacies selling illegally, the medications they sell are often counterfeit and can pose serious health risks.

Here are some of the dangers of purchasing drugs online, and what your patients need to know in order to stay safe.

Dangers of online purchasing

Cheap prices and convenience shouldn’t outweigh the dangers that illegal pharmacies pose. Inform your patients of the risks associated with buying prescription medications online, and why it’s important they purchase from a safe and secure site.

1. Health hazards
The drugs patients buy from an illegal online pharmacy can be detrimental to their health. These medications may be counterfeit and can contain harmful ingredients, or contain no active ingredients at all.

Medications sold illegally may also be mislabeled, expired or contaminated; discrepancies that patients are unlikely to notice.

And, these online pharmacies often provide no information on whether or not medication interactions are possible with these drugs, especially if they don’t require a patient’s full medical history.

2. Fraud and identity theft
Buying prescriptions online increases a patient’s risk of credit card fraud and identity theft.

The majority of these websites are not secure, making it easy for criminals to steal patients’ data.

Patients should never give any personal information over the internet unless they have verified that the website is safe and they’ve read its privacy and security policies.

3. Opioid epidemic
The U.S. is currently battling a drug abuse epidemic, with opioid overdoses at an all-time high. Many of these pain-relieving drugs are being sold online, which is contributing to the problem.

These sellers don’t know—or care—if consumers are addicts or not, requiring no medical history or a valid prescription.

And while some patients may purchase these drugs for legitimate reasons, buying them online increases the risk of receiving a compromised product, which can be life-threatening.

What your patients need to know

If your patients are considering purchasing their prescriptions online, it’s important they do their homework. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says there are certain things patients should look for to determine the legality of an online pharmacy.

If an online pharmacy is legitimate, it should:


Additionally, many legal online pharmacies are certified by the NABP, and patients can check its website for a listing. It’s important to note that some large internet pharmacies may not be certified due to their well-recognized names.

Patients can also verify whether an online pharmacy is legitimate by checking BuySafeRx, a website launched by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global).

Your pharmacy faces digital dangers, too. Learn how to protect your business from a cyberattack.



Sign up for a FREE subscription to Elements magazine!



Sign up to receive the weekly Elements e-newsletter for bonus business tips and advice.

find out more