Continuing our quest to get the truth out and for our elected leaders in Congress to take bold action to protect online access to safe and affordable medication, we’re publishing a section a week of our report called Online Pharmacies, Personal Drug Importation, and Public Health. This week we look at the reasons why Americans look online to buy medication:

High U.S. drug prices are one of the main reasons that Americans go online to buy medication. As stated previously, according to the CDC, about five million Americans buy medication internationally each year due to high domestic drug prices. The CDC’s figures and others identified below show that over the past 15 years, tens of millions of Americans have purchased medication from outside the U.S. using online pharmacies to save money or because they could not afford the prices at their local pharmacies. Fifty million Americans between the ages of 18 to 64 did not fill a prescription in 2012 due to cost, up from 29 million in 2001. The data demonstrates that Americans need international online pharmacies due to a public health crisis of high domestic drug prices.

There are other reasons Americans go online to buy medication besides cost. Online pharmacies offer convenience and anonymity. For some consumers with mobility problems or for those who live in rural locations, ordering online and receiving medication by mail can be very helpful. Others may feel embarrassed about their medical conditions, which are sometimes unintentionally disclosed at their local pharmacy counters, preferring to order privately online.

Unfortunately, some Americans go online seeking medication without first obtaining a prescription from their healthcare providers. Many such people should not be judged. Americans who are uninsured may be unable to afford the medical care necessary to get a prescription and shop from online pharmacies that do not require one. Others just don’t want the “hassle” of going to the doctor and getting a prescription. There are obvious and inherent dangers in taking certain medications without first consulting with a licensed prescriber. Additionally, online pharmacies, foreign and domestic, that do not require a prescription are more likely to sell falsified and substandard medication and not ship medication safely.

Growing numbers of insured Americans in the coming years, a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will lead to a decline in medications ordered online without a prescription. However, many newly insured will find that their prescribed medications are not covered by their plans and are too expensive to pay for out-of-pocket at a U.S. pharmacy. For some, international online pharmacies are the only route to obtaining needed medication.

Finally, some Americans looking to obtain prescription narcotics without a prescription turn to the Internet, but the prevalence of such purchases are a small part of America’s prescription abuse problem. Still, the most serious negative health consequences related to prescription drugs bought over the Internet are from controlled drugs purchased without a valid prescription. The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, which largely banned online prescribing for controlled substances, was named after 18 year-old Ryan Haight who purchased prescription narcotics from an online pharmacy based in Oklahoma without a valid prescription and died from an overdose.

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Beware of Fake DEA Agent Online Pharmacy Scam

A recent article in The Muskegon Chronicle warns of a new scam against consumers who buy prescription drugs online. The Chronicle reports:

Some people who bought prescriptions online later received calls from someone claiming to be an agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency, who demanded they wire a “fine” to avoid being arrested.

Anyone receiving a telephone call from a person claiming to be a DEA special agent or other law enforcement official seeking money should refuse the demand and report the threat by calling 1-877-792-2873.

While buying drugs online from Canada and other countries is, under most circumstances, technically illegal, individuals who import non-controlled products for their own personal use are not prosecuted. There is no reason whatsoever that a DEA or FDA agent would contact someone who purchased controlled or regular prescription drugs online asking for, or demanding payment of, a fine. Just as the article suggests, if you are targeted in this fake DEA scam, please report the threat to law enforcement officials immediately.

As a reminder, reputable international online pharmacies do not sell controlled substances to Americans. Federal law, under the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, mandates that only U.S. pharmacies with a DEA license can sell controlled substances online, pursuant to a valid prescription based on face-to-face consultation with a licensed U.S. physician. Learn more about buying controlled substances online.

 

 

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