Buying cheap pharmaceuticals online might seem like a great way to save a few much-needed dollars, but be careful or you could be buying a whole lot of trouble.
That was the message given by local Cpl. Angela Hawryluk of the RCMP’s federal enforcement section during an Oct. 11 Twitter chat.
In Canada, four per cent of all counterfeit seizures are pharmaceuticals, and the RCMP indicates its a growing problem.
“Our message when purchasing online is always buyer beware. Take steps to verify the legitimacy of (the) online pharmacy,” Hawryluk said.
“(It’s) all about buyer beware and doing your background work before purchasing.”
Consumers are advised to make direct contact with the company rather than relying solely on online interactions. A reputable and legal online pharmacy will also require a prescription from a doctor, so beware of any that determine what to prescribe based on an online questionnaire.
The potential risks associated with ordering online are varied.
“Is the active medicinal ingredient in the drug? (Is the) dosage correct? Are there fillers that could cause health risks?,” Hawryluk asked.
“Bottom line: criminals producing counterfeit pharmaceuticals do not care about the health and safety of consumers.”
Health Connect Pharmacy in Moncton, New Brunswick joined the online Twitter chat. A representative from the family-owned and fully licensed Canadian mail order pharmacy said reputable, legal online pharmacies should offer contact information and you should be able to speak directly with a pharmacist.
They source their medications from the same wholesalers as local retail pharmacies.
“A big red flag- if a pharmacy does not require a prescription, they are not operating legally,” advised Health Connect. “Be sure to check the provincial regulating body website to validate both the pharmacy and the pharmacist.”
There isn’t any one type of drug more likely to be counterfeit when dealing with an illegal operation, so any drug could be suspect.
“Criminals involved in producing counterfeit meds will make what is in demand,” said Hawryluk, adding that in Nova Scotia they have confirmed cases of counterfeit steroids that have been seized.
Consumers who purchase online pharmaceuticals they suspect may be counterfeit should contact the RCMP federal enforcement section at 1-902-869-2313.
The RCMP federal enforcement section will also host public sessions for groups interested in learning more about the dangers of buying online drugs.
Hawryluk advises consumers to follow the ‘Four P’s’ when purchasing online pharmaceuticals: Package, Price, Place and Product.
•<Product--Know the colour, size, shape and dosage of your medication.
•Place--Where is the product normally sold? If buying online, make direct contact with the pharmacy.
•Price--If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
•Packaging--How are the meds packaged in Canada? Blister packs, pill bottle, or box? Watch for safety seal requirements. Look for spelling errors, blurred text, poor quality and colours on labels.