Ordering Prescriptions Online? Important Warnings
Medication error injures millions of innocent patients every year. Brent Adams & Associates' drug injury lawyers in Raleigh reviewed reports from the Mayo Clinic that some online pharmacies mail expired drugs, and even unexpired medications are improperly stored. Other cyber pharmacies don't require a prescription, cross-check for drug interactions, or sell defective drugs. These all contribute to possible drug injuries.
Our Raleigh injury lawyers collected these online drug ordering tips:
- Use a licensed pharmacy. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) will verify if an online pharmacy is licensed or if it has received complaints. Some sites have a seal of approval from Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). To gain this approval, sites must maintain state licenses and allow inspections by the NABP.
- Insist on access to a registered pharmacist. Reputable sites offer access to registered pharmacists for help in answering medication questions.
- Read the privacy and security policies. Before ordering, make sure your credit card number and personal identifiable information are protected.
- Compare prices. Your local drug store – especially if it is a national chain – will email you regular discount offers on drugs.
- Watch out for counterfeit drugs. Some medicines sold by online sites are fakes, says the Mayo Clinic. Cases show some online drugs were dietary supplements, contained harmful doses of the wrong drug or contained no medication at all. Be suspicious if you cannot contact the pharmacy by phone or if you're told “no prescription” is required to obtain the drug. Knowing the size, shape, color, numerical or letter printing, taste, texture, smell or hardness of a medication may help you notice a counterfeit. Always avoid taking a medication with an unsealed package. Drugs most commonly counterfeited are those to treat high cholesterol, weight loss and erectile dysfunction, reports the Mayo Clinic.
- Be cautious of sites based outside the United States. Label language may not be in English. The medication also may not be held to U.S. safety standards. A medication sold in the United States may be a totally different drug but with the same name in another country. Some foreign sites also sell drugs that are illegal in the United States.
- Don't use a site that bypasses prescriptions. Only your doctor can safely prescribe medication and monitor side effects.
- Don't order medication that's not approved by the FDA. Taking an inappropriate could prove harmful or fatal.
- Make sure the online site has an address and phone number. Steer clear of sites that list only foreign contact information.
- Watch out for “fantasy’ claims. Avoid sites that advertise "miracle cures."
- Report problems. If you have a problem with an online pharmacy, notify the FDA.
- Treating drug-related sicknesses in hospitals as a result of medication error costs $3 billion annually, bestsyndication.com added. Research details 400,000 preventable drug-related injuries in hospitals, 800,000 in long-term care facilities, and 530,000 medication errors among Medicare recipients in outpatient clinics yearly in the United States.
Basic Patient Precautions
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the most common types of errors involve administering improper dosage, giving the wrong drug and using the wrong route of administration. Patients taking multiple prescriptions are at greater risk. Children are vulnerable since prescriptions are based on body weight, which can be a variable.
- Know the drug’s scientific and generic name, its purpose and the ill side effects.
- Follow the dosage directions. If the prescription dictates three pills a day, know if that means “taken together” or at intervals. Know if you should take the drug with food or water. Know if you can operate an automobile or heavy machinery while taking the drug. Lastly, read the bottle’s dosage instructions before leaving the pharmacy. If the wording is confusing, ask the pharmacist to explain.
- Maintain a list of all medications you are taking. Before a drug is prescribed, tell your doctor what other medications you are taking. Ask the physician about drug compatibility. A pharmacist also can ascertain multiple-drug compatibility.
- Is the expiration date listed?Does the prescription come with printed information about the drug and a warning of ill side effects?
- Electronic drug prescribing can be safer since it eliminates problems associated with a doctor’s handwriting and will red-flag drug allergies.