Buyer beware: The dangers of getting your prescriptions online

One in three Americans say they don’t take their medications as prescribed, because they can’t afford to.
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 4:20 AM CDT
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ORLANDO, FLA. (IVANHOE NEWSWIRE) - One in three Americans say they don’t take their medications as prescribed, because they can’t afford to.

Rising costs coupled with high health insurance deductibles have some Americans turning to the internet. But buyers need to beware. The search for life-saving drugs can have life-threatening consequences.

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 percent since it launched. Another is up 715 percent.

The cost of a popular drug for rheumatoid arthritis is up by 486 percent. And one nerve pain medication is up 420 percent.

Elizabeth Gardner, PhD Forensic Scientist, UAB says, “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.”

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

Gardner explains, “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.”

That means consumers were either getting less than they needed or a higher dose than recommended.

The FDA recommends consumers buy from verified online sources related to their individual health plans, or their “brick and mortar” pharmacy.

While most consumers assume that online pharmacies are safe, the FDA estimates that only three percent of online pharmacies reviewed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy are in compliance with US pharmacy laws and standards.

Money magazine recommends five online pharmacies: Costco, Pill Pack, RX outreach,, and Bioplus Specialty Pharmacy.

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