There are many things smart consumers are concerned with when ordering medication online. While the internet is a convenient place to look for things like prescription medication without having to leave the comfort of your own home, there is another side to things. In contrast to the real world, the Internet is not regulated by any authority and can hardly be monitored effectively by nature. There are numerous ways in which even the most effective surveillance authority can fail, not least questions of responsibility that arise from the nature of the Internet. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration has given some helpful advice to anyone wishing to order medication online.

The first piece of advice is that consumers should beware of websites that sell illegal drugs offline. This can occur in several ways, for example, if the drug in question is illegal in the United States, but not in other countries. This can sometimes be the case with some antidepressants, anti-impotence drugs and weight loss products. In other cases, the drug in question can be considered illegal in most countries. In such a case, it is likely an illegal website that consumers should definitely avoid. The FDA advises US customers not to buy illegal or restricted medications over the Internet because the FDA has banned them because they may have harmful side effects or have not been thoroughly tested.

Other The FDA has raised concerns about online pharmacies where users can order medication online based on questionnaires. As any doctor or health professional will tell you, filling out a questionnaire about your symptoms and your medical history is no substitute for an actual consultation with a flesh and blood doctor. Even telephone and web-based consultations are unlikely to come close enough to providing information for proper diagnosis. In addition to the possible lack of details, there is also a very real risk of a wrong diagnosis. The dangers of taking a drug, even if it does not require a prescription based solely on the results of an online questionnaire (which can only take into account a limited number of variables), can prove catastrophic to a person’s health. This can get worse if the drugs are not FDA approved or are known to be dangerous if used incorrectly.

Some FDA officials have also raised the alarm that some websites do not check for prescriptions whenever orders are placed. A number of online pharmacies sell prescription drugs but do not have a visible system to check the validity of the order by requesting a copy of the prescription. This means that almost anyone with a credit card and an internet connection can order prescription medication without having to provide a prescription. According to most authorities, this is the biggest circumvention of all FDA regulations found on the Internet, apart from the sale of illegal drugs.

There is a form of self-regulation in the online pharmacy industry. An example of this is the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program, which was set up by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). The program’s standards are rigorous and very stringent to make fraudulent websites more difficult to certify as compliant and trustworthy online pharmacy. The guidelines that the program uses determine which sites are approved and which sites they keep.

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