Legal and Safe E-Commerce: What You Should and Should Not Buy Online

Legal and Safe E-Commerce: What You Should and Should Not Buy Online

For those not as familiar with e-commerce, it is the practice of electronically buying or selling goods and services via the internet. Two of the most successful e-commerce platforms include Amazon and Alibaba, valued at $1.7 trillion and $200 billion, respectively. It is also worth noting that e-commerce is omnipresent in all four major market segments, including

  • Business-to-consumer (B2C)
  • Business-to-business (B2B)
  • Consumer-to-Business (C2B)
  • Consumer to consumer (C2C)

To understand where e-commerce fits in when it comes to the consumer market, we need only look to a study published by Statista. In 2017, e-commerce sales represented 9 percent of all retail sales in America. In the same year, global e-commerce sales accounted for 12.3 percent of all retail sales, notes a separate study published by Digital Commerce 360. Having detailed how pervasive e-commerce has become, both nationwide and globally, let’s delve into what consumers are buying when they go online. Across the various e-commerce platforms, electronics, personal care products, grocery and meal delivery services, and home goods accounted for the overwhelming majority of online purchases in 2017. And they continue to do so even today. However, a new segment has been gaining some momentum as of late, prescription-based medications.

Why More Americans Are Choosing to Fill Their Prescriptions With Online Pharmacies

Along with lower costs, many Americans are choosing online pharmacies over offline ones to fill their prescriptions for the following reasons:

  • Free standard shipping
  • The ability to get a much larger supply of medication
  • Convenience in terms of online ordering for refills or renewals
  • Can use the same prescription card honored by offline pharmacies to save even more on medications

According to the National Institutes of Health, the United States is home to an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 online pharmacies. Generally speaking, most of them operate in the same way as their offline counterparts in that they provide safe and effective prescription drugs to those who need them.

However, some of these online pharmacies have no qualms about selling prescription medications to consumers who do not have a valid prescription. And in that same vein, many consumers are just as interested in purchasing them. Some of these medications include human growth hormone drugs (HGH), and testosterone replacement medications, which is more detailed in this report. According to the United States Department of Justice, the following are also quite common:

  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Antihypertensives
  • Antianxiety and Antidepressant drugs

Why Do Some Medications Require a Prescription and Others Do Not?

The reason why some medications require a prescription while others are readily available over-the-counter comes down to classification, which dates back to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. The act, among other things, was established to improve drug safety. And this meant classifying drugs according to how likely they were to be misused or abused. Those with a low potential for misuse or abuse, namely over-the-counter drugs, were designated Schedule II drugs. Meanwhile, those with an above-average potential for misuse or abuse were designated as Schedule I drugs. Because opioids, stimulants, antianxiety, antidepressants, and HGH, for example, meet the criteria for medications that are likely to be misused or abused, they fall under Schedule II and, therefore, require a prescription.

Medications and Supplements That You Can Buy Without a Prescription

While they may not be on parity with their Schedule II counterparts, over-the-counter medications and even some dietary supplements might be worth considering in some cases. For example, over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate pain. And it does not end there as beta-alanine, glutamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are all dietary supplements that can ease symptoms associated with low growth hormone levels.

The Truth About Online Pharmacies: Why Scams and Fraud Are Still Possible Despite Heavy FDA Regulation

Studies show that many of the more than 30,000 online pharmacies filling prescriptions for American consumers are doing so from Russia, China, India, Turkey, and other foreign countries before shipping out the medications internationally. Many also do not follow U.S. pharmacy laws, knowing that they are not U.S. pharmacies but instead offshore ones exempt from FDA regulation. Collectively, these things can endanger the lives of those who turn to them for their prescription-filling needs.

How to Avoid Being Scammed Online

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates online and offline pharmacies in the same way. To that end, the government entity passed the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), which are guidelines designed to make it less likely for pharmacies to dispense harmful drugs to consumers. The FDA ensures all pharmacies comply with DSCSA by carrying out the following:

  • Ensuring that a pharmacy is licensed or registered with the FDA
  • Making sure all drugs are traceable back to their respective manufacturers
  • Ensuring the legitimacy of all prescription-based drugs
  • Recalling drugs that are deemed harmful
  • Making sure pharmacies do not dispense recalled drugs

While the FDA does a terrific job making sure all pharmacies in the U.S. operate within the bounds of U.S. pharmacy laws, there is little they can do when it comes to regulating pharmacies in other countries. For this reason, consumers are encouraged to consider the following when deciding on whether to buy or not buy from a prospective online pharmacy:

Should Buy

  • Medications that require a prescription from a licensed U.S. physician
  • Drugs from a licensed U.S.-based pharmacy in good standing
  • Prescription drugs from an online pharmacy with an onsite pharmacist
  • FDA-approved Drugs
  • Drugs from pharmacies with clearly stated privacy protections

Should Not Buy

Underpriced medication – While it is not uncommon for many prescription drugs to be slightly less expensive with online pharmacies versus their offline counterparts, the difference should only be slight. Generally speaking, a significant disparity could be a sign that the pharmacy is selling an expired drug.

Foreign pharmacies – When deciding to fill a prescription with an online pharmacy, you want to keep in mind that the FDA does not regulate foreign pharmacies. Therefore, if you choose to go with a foreign pharmacy, it is next to impossible to ensure you’re getting a quality, unexpired medication. That said, online pharmacies that are legally authorized to fill prescriptions in the U.S. will have an NABP seal of approval on their website, which will be in the form of a Verification of Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) hyperlink. This seal also means they are strictly adhering to all FDA requirements. Some of the online pharmacies in the U.S. to earn an NABP Seal of Approval include Caremark, Express Scripts, and OptumRx.

Safety and efficacy – Consumers should avoid buying any medication not approved by the FDA. After all, there is no way to confirm whether or not they are safe and effective.

Bottom Line

In summary, many conveniences come with having a prescription filled with an online pharmacy, including free delivery and up to a 90-day supply of medication. However, those considering this option should do their research to ensure they are dealing with a reputable U.S.-based pharmacy.