THE MAGAZINE

What Ails Online Pharmacies

By Carlton Purvis
If only 7 percent of those who came to the EAASM site had made a purchase, the annual revenue for Medizin Direkt would have been between €12 million ($15 million) and €35 million ($46 million), according to EAASM’s final report. “It is easy to see how a criminal counterfeiting enterprise operating multiple Web sites could make vast sums, with potentially lethal consequences,” the report concludes.

Tips

As most consumers won’t have the benefit of a pretend site that redirects them to a warning, the question is: how can consumers guard against being duped?

It’s not easy, Thomson warned attendees at the conference. There aren’t many ways for a customer to verify if an international pharmacy is legitimate.|

Counterfeiting tactics vary, so there is no single feature that can distinguish a fake site from a real one, he said. And counterfeiters are attentive to details that can make a site seem legitimate. “Some have even set up fake customer service departments.”

But there are some red flags to watch for and some precautions that anyone seeking pharmaceuticals online can take.

They should look out for strange URLs or redirects, and they should also take note if the pharmacy name doesn’t match the pharmacy’s Web address. “If you’re going to buy medicine online, this is a sure-fire indicator that things are not well,” says Thomson.

Another red flag is if the pharmacy claims that its drugs are from European countries, such as Britain, Germany, or Ireland. That’s a red flag because even in Britain, the drugs don’t come from Britain, Thomson says.

Potential buyers might also want to check the site LegitScripts, mentioned earlier. This is an online registry of legitimate online pharmacies that have been independently verified. LegitScripts is operated by an organization of the same name, which was founded by former Office of National Drug Control Policy staffer John Horton. The company also publishes investigative reports on online pharmacy networks and has a free certification program for pharmacies. 
 

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