BBB tips for buying medicine online

One financial problem many families in America face is the inability to afford medications. When faced with the problem of a pricey medication, many turn to the Internet in search affordable solutions. The Internet can provide legitimate sources of cheaper medication, but be careful you aren’t getting scammed for your personal information or putting your family in danger with counterfeit or substandard drugs.

Only a fraction of online pharmacies are legitimate, which means the risk for counterfeit or substandard drugs is high. National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has been reviewing websites selling prescription medications since 2008 and has found 96% are out of compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws and standards. These sites can be selling drugs containing too much, too little or none of the medication you were prescribed and there are no guarantees they comply with standards. These sites may also put families at financial risk, such as stealing credit card numbers or other personal information.

BBB offers tips to keep your family safe if you’re considering buying medicine online:

Understand all the risks. The medication you buy may be fake or have the incorrect dosages. They could contain dangerous ingredients or be expired. When you buy online, there's no guarantee the drugs comply with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) or National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) standards.

Make a checklist before ordering. Check that the websites you are visiting are licensed through the state. Check to see if the website has a ".pharmacy" domain, instead of ".com" or ".biz". Make sure the site requires a valid prescription and there is a physical location and phone number in the U.S. Avoid sites that can only be contacted by e-mail. Call and check that there is a licensed pharmacist available to answer questions.

Avoid too-good-to-be-true sites and offers. Websites that offer major discounts can be a sign the drugs are counterfeit. Avoid flashy ads and clickbait e-mails. Websites that offer limited types of medicine and ones that treat conditions, such as obesity, pain and acne, are often red flags.

Follow up and go local. NABP lists sites it recommends and ones that it doesn't on its website. You may consider sticking with online pharmacies associated with legitimate walk-in stores in the U.S.

If you have any concerns or complaints about a site, report it to BBB Scam Tracker or the FDA. Look for Web sites displaying the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites’ (VIPPS) seal of approval from NABP. VIPPS certification requires online pharmacies be licensed in every state to which they ship drugs. They must also meet standards for patient privacy, quality assurance, authentication and security. Never give personal information — social security number, credit card information or medical/health history — unless you’re sure the company is trustworthy. Make sure the Web site will not sell your personal information unless you agree.

You can also visit or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301 for a list of BBB Accredited pharmacies and Business Profiles on ones you’re considering.

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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