Internet Prescribing - Information for Consumers

To be a savvy shopper, it's important to be fully informed. You need to know about the merchandise being ordered, the company providing the product, from where it is being shipped, and assurance that there is some recourse if you're dissatisfied. This is important when ordering a camera, but it is vital when it comes to drugs that can endanger your health.

In recent months, there has been an explosion of online pharmacies on the Internet. There are those that are operating legally and providing great service to customers by conveniently filling prescriptions at a lower price. There are companies, however, that are operating illegally by not only selling drugs, but prescribing them as well.

Few people like to go to the doctor to be examined. It's human nature to avoid discussion about conditions that cause embarrassment, and sometimes shame. While it's human nature, the avoidance of the doctor's office, in some instances, can be dangerous and even life threatening.

Recently, online ordering of prescription medication has become very popular with the public and profitable for the sellers. Selling Viagra and Xenical on the Internet has particularly preyed on consumers' desire to stay out of the doctor's office and maintain anonymity. Is that a good idea? Probably not. Many of the conditions which you may be attempting to treat have underlying medical causes that should be evaluated by your physician during an actual examination. If contemplating obtaining prescriptions through the Internet, consumers should consider the following:

  • Ordering drugs without a relationship with a physician is potentially dangerous. By law, with very limited exceptions, prescription drugs must be prescribed by a physician after a good faith examination has been performed and a medical indication for the prescription has been determined. There is good reason for this, as drugs should only be prescribed after an examination is performed and the cause of the problem or condition is diagnosed. Online "consultations" cannot, with any certainty, provide enough information to make a verifiable diagnosis.
  • Many of the sites offering prescriptions for drugs are operating illegally. In California, the law requires that physicians and pharmacists be licensed, and that physicians perform a physical exam prior to prescribing drugs. It is generally impossible for consumers to determine the licensing status of the physician or pharmacist by the information on Internet pharmacy websites. In addition, many sites only require a questionnaire and do not verify the most basic facts needed for physicians to prescribe pharmaceuticals safely.
  • Self-diagnosing can be dangerous, and treating a symptom without determining the underlying cause may mask symptoms that will prevent appropriate treatment of a serious, and maybe life-threatening, disease or condition.
  • All drugs, particularly prescription drugs, have the potential for dangerous side effects. After the prescription is sold, it is likely that the prescribing online physician will not be available to help you. Patients need a physician with whom they have a relationship to monitor and treat their conditions for a number of very good reasons. In the event of side effects, if the condition worsens, or if there is an interaction with other drugs, each patient needs a physician who is aware of his or her condition and the medications.
  • Many Internet pharmacy sites are not within California, and some are outside of the United States, which may leave consumers with little recourse should they be displeased with the service or the quality of drugs provided.
  • While the price of some drugs is dramatically less on some sites, the drug shipped may not be the drug ordered. It may be something entirely different or it may be adulterated. Postal authorities regularly seize shipments of pharmaceuticals being sent from overseas, and what they find should be cause for concern to consumers. They frequently discover adulterated, counterfeit, and mislabeled drugs.

Ordering prescription drugs online is certainly convenient. If you have a prescription from your doctor, there is no reason that you should not order them from a reputable business through the Internet. As with all purchases, however, consumers should check out the business before providing payment. Organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, also have merchants who are online. To checkout online vendors who have BBB membership, or to find helpful tips and publications about ordering anything through the Internet, please click the link below. The Federal Trade Commission also has helpful publications about many consumer issues You also may find more information concerning drugs for sale over the Internet from the Food & Drug Administration.