Canadian and online pharmacies have both been controversial issues for many years now. The recent fine against Canada Drugs last Friday (April 13th of 2018) once again has placed both Canadian pharmacies and Internet pharmacies into the national news and media spotlight. Canada Drugs, an online pharmacy that claims to be “Canada’s Largest”, received a fine of thirty-four million dollars ($34,000,000) for the importation of unapproved drugs and counterfeit oncology medications into the US.
About the Canada Drugs Settlement
Canada Drugs has been operating online Internet websites for approximately seventeen years now and has made almost eighty million dollars in profits. However, after selling prescription medications that were proven to be counterfeit, the pharmacy was fined thirty-four million dollars, plus the pharmacies’ owner was fined an additional two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and received five years of probation and placed on house arrest for six months. Perhaps more importantly, the pharmacy also agreed to give up all of their domain names that they owned for the horde of websites that were utilized to dominate rankings and listings on search engines such as Google.
The US charged the pharmacy with importing unapproved medications from around the globe and illegally branding and dispensing prescription drugs to patients in the United States. Even worse was the fact that two oncology medications (Bevacizumab branded as Altuzan and Avastin) were dispensed to patients via the mail and contained absolutely no active ingredients at all.
Online Internet Pharmacies and Canadian Drugs
The purchasing of drugs from Canadian pharmacies by American citizens has been going on for quite a while now. Buying the drugs from a Canadian source has been viewed as a safe alternative by many patients attempting to save some money on prescription and OTC (over-the-counter) medications that are extremely expensive in the United States. However, adding the online and Internet pharmacies into the equation leads to the possibility of unregulated imports and sources of the drugs, plus obviously counterfeit versions as seen in the Canada Drugs case.
Websites for Canadian pharmacies and for Internet pharmacies are prolific. According to a study released in 2016, twenty brand-new illegally operated pharmacy websites are opened on the Internet every day! A search on Google today returns the following results:
– Canadian pharmacy – 1,350,000 websites
– Internet pharmacy – 1,660,000 websites
– Online Pharmacy – 2,830,000 websites
– Online Canadian Pharmacy – 3,340,000 websites
The primary reason that US consumers are utilizing these online pharmacies is pricing. According to a Consumer Reports article published several years ago, drugs can be up to ninety-percent less when purchased on the Internet than when bought at a local pharmacy. The Consumer Reports article had even encouraged patients to purchase their drugs online and was titled “Save Money on Meds: 6 Tips for Finding the Best Prescription Drug Prices”. Interestingly enough, Consumer Reports has since deleted the “older” article and replaced it with another version that no longer lists online pharmacies as a “tip” or alternative for saving money on prescriptions or OTC medications.
Making Internet Pharmacies Safe
Almost a decade ago, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), stated that approximately 97% of the almost 11,000 Internet pharmacies that were reviewed operated in conflict with both pharmacy laws and practice standards. The violations that were noted included identity theft (the stealing and selling of a patient’s personal and financial information), spam e-mails that contained viruses and dispensed prescriptions that contained drywall or even rat poison.
Back in June of 2008, the NABP posted a list of two-hundred and seventy-three websites that were “not recommended” because they were non-compliant with either laws or safety standards, plus stated that they were investigating another three-hundred “suspicious” sites. However, the NABP’s list of “not recommended sites” today returns a message of “Sorry, but the page you were trying to view does not exist”. In its place is the website www.safe.pharmacy, a “website verification program” that has been made available for consumers to visit and check if the online pharmacy is both safe and legitimate.
Additionally, back in 1999 the NABP initiated the VIPPS program as a means of accrediting online pharmacies. This program stands for The Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites and has rigorously high standards that even involves an actual onsite inspection of the pharmacy’s physical location. Lastly, the NABP has also created the .Pharmacy domain that is now required for all newly accredited online Internet pharmacy sites.
Lastly, there is a very informative FDA (U. S. Food & Drug Administration) site available for consumers titled “How To Buy Medicines Safely From An Online Pharmacy” that is highly recommended by many to be given to patients for educational purposes. The site warns patients to beware what it calls “Rogue Online Pharmacies” and points out the commonly seen “red flags” for illegitimate online operations:
– You can buy a legend drug without actually having a valid Rx from your physician.
– There is no Registered RPh that is licensed as a pharmacist in the United States available to answer your questions.
– They offer extremely low prices for drugs that are just “too good to be true”.
– You received unsolicited email or spam from them.
– They are located outside of the US and/or ship prescriptions worldwide.
Questions About Starting or Running an Online Pharmacy?
If you are planning a new online pharmacy, or just considering opening up a new Internet pharmacy business, Healthcare Consultants can help you. HCC has completed more new pharmacy startups than any other pharmacy consulting firm in the nation.
If you currently operate an Online pharmacy, now is the time to ensure that you are doing everything correctly and legally. Contact us here at HCC if you have any questions regarding operating your Internet pharmacy online. With over 28 years in the Pharmacy Consulting business, HCC can assist with expert advice in any area of your pharmacy business or practice. With a full-time staff of in-house Pharmacy Consultant specialists, HCC can answer any questions that you may have in all areas of your business. Call us today at 800-642-1652 or contact us now online for a free consultation.