PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Click on the seal to test its validity and view the online pharmacy profile.

Just last week the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted for a bill – Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act – to crackdown on websites selling counterfeit products, which will include rogue online pharmacies. This could be a great thing for patient safety. However, critics argue that, if enacted, provisions in the bill will stifle free speech protected under the First Amendment, and may lead to overreaching government activities, including shutting down online pharmacies that are a safe lifeline of affordable prescription medication for American consumers. The bill raises an important topic for consumers: How do you find affordable medication online while staying away from dangerous counterfeit drugs?

Counterfeit drugs can hurt and kill those who take them. And, while the hard data is scant, experts agree that the Internet provides a channel for the sale of counterfeit drugs and some consumers fall victim to rogue online pharmacies that sell them. As AARP reports, due to the high prices of prescription drugs in the United States, millions of Americans go online to find affordable medication but in doing so put their health at risk. helps consumers identify websites that market and sell safe and effective drugs at an affordable price, and to avoid dangerous counterfeit drugs. Other verification services and trade associations also evaluate online pharmacies, but we believe our program is the most independent and useful for the American consumer.

Counterfeit drugs can contain the correct ingredients, no medicinal ingredients, too much or too little of the active ingredient, or even ingredients found in other medications and products (the wrong ingredients!), which can sometimes be deadly. It’s probably obvious why too few, or too many, ingredients, or no ingredients at all, can make a drug product harmful for a patient. However, you may wonder how counterfeit drugs can contain the correct ingredients and still be dangerous. If they are expired or contain impurities then they may not be safe and effective like the “real” drugs.

Counterfeit drugs can be found in many countries, including highly regulated and rich ones such as the United States, Canada, and most countries of the European Union. However, they are far more prevalent in some poorer and less-regulated countries. The safety of prescription drugs from other countries is of particular importance since millions of Americans have personally imported their prescription drugs over the past decade. You should know that the U.S. government generally does not stop individuals from importing medication for their own use (up to a three-month supply of non-controlled drugs), however it is technically illegal. We know of no instance of legal action against an individual for personal drug importation of a non-controlled substance.

A counterfeit drug, many experts would agree, is not safe and/or effective because it has not been approved for sale by a drug regulatory authority, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and/or it was not created using an industry standard called Good Manufacturing Practices – or GMP, the standard used by many countries as a requirement for approving the sale of prescription drug products. By purchasing from online pharmacies that only fill orders with licensed pharmacies selling prescription drugs manufactured under GMP standards, consumers can receive the drugs that they need to stay or get healthy., through its Verification (or “Seal”) Program, accredits online pharmacies meeting stringent safety requirements. Accredited online pharmacies can publish the seal on their websites alerting consumers that they have been independently verified by a trusted source. In evaluating online pharmacies, verifies the following criteria:

Pharmacy license (with applicable pharmacy board or licensing authority)

DEA-issued license for controlled substances (for U.S. pharmacies only – non U.S. pharmacies are not permitted to ship controlled substances into the U.S.)

Prescription is required (based on an in-person examination, with exceptions where expressly permitted by law)

Privacy policy (one that affirms a consumer’s information will not be shared with third parties)

Financial and personal information is secure (encryption required on web pages where financial and personal information is transmitted)

Contact information (mailing address and phone number)

Verifications and checks are made quarterly to ensure continued compliance with rules of the Verification Program. also conducts mystery shopping of online pharmacy applicants and accredited sites to test their adherence to its requirements.

While all verification criteria are important to check online pharmacy safety, when it comes to counterfeit drugs, it is’s license verifications that are most critical. That’s because licensed pharmacies sell regulated prescription drugs that have been manufactured under GMP – or Good Manufacturing Practices and approved by a drug regulatory authority, such as the Food and Drug Administration (United States), the Therapeutic Products Directorate (Canada), or the Central Drugs Standards Control Organization (India). Also, licensed pharmacies are required to properly store medication and discard expired products.

Some reputable online pharmacies fill orders with pharmacies in countries that may have strong pharmaceutical and pharmacy laws, but are not as strong as those in the U.S. or enforced as well. Some of these “international pharmacies” are truly excellent mail-order pharmacy services that service American patients. inspects international pharmacies throughout the world that fill prescription drug orders referred to them by online pharmacies. The inspections are carried out by Dr. Ram Kamath, PharmD, the pharmacist responsible for creating a personal drug importation program implemented for Illinois residents, and then adopted by Kansas, Missouri, Vermont, and Wisconsin. online pharmacies can only refer orders to such pharmacies that have been inspected for meeting high standards of mail-order pharmacy practice.

Buying drugs from unknown or unverified websites online increases the risk that a consumer will purchase dangerous counterfeit drugs. However, over a decade of experience and studies show that buying drugs online is actually safe if the products purchased are ordered on verified websites and dispensed from licensed pharmacies, domestic and foreign, that require a prescription. When consumers shop online for affordable prescription medication, they should only buy from online pharmacies publishing the seal or other trusted programs, such as the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program, or if it’s a website operated by a well-known household name, such as Wal-Mart or a local pharmacy in their neighborhood.

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