KPRC 2 Investigates Buyer Beware: Dangers of buying prescription drugs online

Rising costs, coupled with high health insurance deductibles have some people turning to the internet to find cheaper drug prices. Investigator Amy Davis looks into what you need to know about the dangers of buying prescription drugs online.

HOUSTON – Rising costs, coupled with high health insurance deductibles have some people turning to the internet to find cheaper drug prices. Investigator Amy Davis looks into what you need to know about the dangers of buying prescription drugs online.

Warning about buying prescription drugs online.

While most consumers assume that online pharmacies are safe, the FDA estimates that only 3% of online pharmacies reviewed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy are in compliance with United States Pharmacy laws and standards. Buying prescription medicine from fraudulent online pharmacies can be dangerous, or even deadly. At best, counterfeit medicines are fakes of approved drugs and should be considered unsafe and ineffective.

Popular RX drug costs continue to rise

A U.S. House committee found that the list prices of several drugs, including insulin, continue to rise. For the 37 million Americans with diabetes, insulin is a critical part of managing high blood sugar. But the prices of some diabetes drugs are sky high. In fact, the listed price of one has jumped 1,200% since it launched.

The cost of a popular drug for rheumatoid arthritis is up by 486%. Another nerve pain medication is up 420%. More and more Americans are searching for better prices on the internet. But health experts say, buyer beware!

“One of the things we have is a project where we order prescription drugs from online pharmacies, analyze them, and see what you’re actually getting,” said Elizabeth Gardner, Ph.D. Forensic Scientist UAB.

Testing of drugs found fakes

Researchers found some online pharmacies were fake storefronts running scams with expired or unidentified, potentially dangerous chemicals. Some of the tested drugs were inconsistent.

“It did contain the active ingredient, but when we quantified it, we were supposed to be receiving pills that contained 20 milligrams. And they contained anywhere from 18 to 41 milligrams,” said Gardner.

That means consumers were either getting less than they needed or a higher dose than recommended. The safest bets? The FDA recommends consumers buy from verified online sources related to their individual health plans, or their “brick and mortar” pharmacy.

RELATED: Can you save money with Amazon Pharmacy?

Money magazine recommends five online pharmacies: Costco, PillPack, RX Outreach, Healthwarehouse, and Bioplus Specialty Pharmacy. There are also places like GoodRX and RXsaver that offer free coupons for popular prescription drugs.


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About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.