prescriptions online: a safe bet?|
Before you order
Before you input your credit card number and click on the "order"
button, check out an Internet pharmacy's policies regarding privacy,
refunds, customer service, security, and mailing and shipping fees:
Privacy. Privacy is
a vital issue for consumers when it comes to medical information. You need to
that's a major red flag.
Security. The security
of your financial information is as important as the privacy of your medical information.
You don't want hackers or others to gain access to your credit card and banking
information. Make sure the pharmacy you are dealing with has security software
so that your transactions are encrypted and can't be read by third parties while
in transit or while stored in a database.
Customer service. Nothing is more
frustrating for an online shopper than encountering a problem and
not being able to find a real, live person to help resolve it. Make
sure the Web site has a customer service telephone number, preferably
toll-free, and call it before you order to make sure there are actual
human beings who speak English answering the phone. In addition,
the pharmacy should have registered pharmacists on hand to answer
questions. Inquire about this when you call.
Refunds. There should be a clearly
stated, understandable return and refund policy. You need recourse
if your order doesn't arrive or if it isn't packaged correctly,
is damaged during shipping, or isn't exactly what you ordered.
Fees. Carefully examine
all of the fees involved before you place an order. Check out shipping
fees, taxes and any other fees the pharmacy might tack on to your
order. Add them up to make sure you really are saving money.
When your meds come
Your job isn't done when your medications arrive. Exercise
some care before popping the first pill in your mouth by checking out:
- The packaging: Prescription
medications should be packaged securely, and those that require
special handling such as refrigeration or insulation should be
wrapped appropriately. Don't use the medication if the package
or container is torn or ripped or looks like it has been opened
- Labels and warnings:
Prescription medication should include the name of the drug, the
dosage information, as well as any warnings associated with the
drug. The General Accountability Office found that some prescriptions
obtained outside the United States and Canada from Internet pharmacies
lacked any type of labeling.
address: Make sure the company you ordered the medication from is the company
that shipped it or is an affiliate of that company. Check out the postmark to
make sure that the medication was shipped from where you ordered it and not from
- The bottom line:
When in doubt, don't take the medication. "People have false
illusions about pharmacies," says Patton. "I have seen
capsules that the FDA has intercepted, and they would frighten
you to death. It's amazing that today people are willing to ingest
capsules that come in a container with an information sheet that
isn't even in English."