Online Pharmacies for Seniors – Knowing the Risks

Jun 15, 2017

Online Pharmacies for Seniors – Knowing the Risks

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It’s no secret that prescription drugs aren’t getting any cheaper, regardless of where you decide to buy them. Saving money wherever possible is pretty appealing for lower-income seniors, and yet there are some serious risks when trying to cut costs by buying medicine online.

Although most online pharmacies follow strict laws and regulations designed to put your health and safety first, others may not have the best intentions. You can run the risk of online vendors trying to make a quick dollar at your expense, or at very worst be put in danger with false prescriptions or uncertified distribution.

While it may be tempting to save money through less-than-reputable online pharmacies, this is rarely, if ever, a good idea. Many suspicious online pharmacy websites will fill orders without a doctor’s prescription — that is if they even sell you the actual medicine you’re after. Others may merely pay doctors to take a quick look at brief medical surveys you’ll be asked to fill out. This can be particularly dangerous considering they don’t have a full grasp on your entire medical history, running the risk of prescribing drugs that aren’t right for you.

Other risks of using online pharmacy sites can include receiving:

• Products passed their expiration date

• Fake products or those with dangerous ingredients

• Products made incorrectly

• Incorrect dosages or no medication at all

Protecting Yourself From Online Prescription Fraud

While this isn’t to say that all online pharmacies are malign and intent on taking advantage of vulnerable seniors, it’s important to be aware of the ways you can stay safe online.

1. Online Pharmacy Requiring Prescriptions from Licensed Doctors 

If you have to use an online pharmacy, just be sure that there are trained medical professionals coordinating each prescription filled. If a site requires little more than a brief questionnaire to determine whether or not you’re eligible for a certain drug, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. Having a true prescription is one way to ensure that you have the necessary partnership between your healthcare provider and a pharmacist — something that breaks down when using online pharmacies.

2. Evaluate Contact Information on the Site

In the event you do end up using online pharmacies, be sure to check out all of their contact information, street address, and any other information that could be helpful in getting in touch with the business. Should something go awry, a prescription goes missing, or there are any complications, you’ll be able to follow up on the status of your order and subsequently the legitimacy of the business. If this important information is unavailable, it could be a sign that the site is intentionally hiding their location or means of contact — a definite red flag!

3. Never Give More Information than Necessary

Protecting sensitive information while dealing with online transactions is the key to avoiding things like identify theft, as well as many other types of senior frauds and scams. Only after you have verified the security and privacy policy of a website should you consider purchasing their products. Most web browsers will indicate whether a site is safe, although you can also look for the “s” in the beginning of a web address — as in https:// — to determine security as well. Again, wait to give out information like your social security number, credit card, health history, and address before you’re confident this is a legitimate site deserving of your business.

4. Always Get Tracking Info 

As a best practice, always use websites that provide tracking information for your packages whether through the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or Fedex. This can allow you to know when your medicine will arrive and whether or not there were any complications during shipping. Often times if a site is a scam, an order will clear without any further information other than flimsy emails or offers for other fake products.

Due to the prevalence of this issue, there are several resources from the FDA that can help you determine whether or not an online pharmacy is licensed to do business in your state. Additionally, The National Association Boards of Pharmacy has a program that will help you check whether these online pharmacies are legitimate.

To report any suspicions and violations pertaining to online pharmacies, you can visit this page from the FDA.

Hopefully, you can find the medicine you need at a reasonable price. If not, be wary of the online vendors you’re choosing to give your business to, and always be sure to verify with your doctors or healthcare provider as to what options are available to you!

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