5 On Your Side

NC launches site to check up on online pharmacies

Posted June 14
Updated June 26

— North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has launched a website so consumers can check the legitimacy of an online pharmacy before getting a prescription filled.

VerifyBeforeYouBuy.org is the first site of its kind in the U.S. to keep consumers from getting scammed on prescription drugs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 97 percent of online pharmacies are bogus.

To get the word out about potentially dangerous medications, Marshall used a grant from the U.S. Justice Department to develop the site. People can enter the URL of an online pharmacy website, and the site will inform them whether it's legitimate or not.

"What we found in counterfeits are sometimes there is just a minimal amount of the active ingredient, sometimes it's contaminated," she said. "I have seen an undercover operation where they actually used highway paint, which is full of lead, to make the coloration of a yellow pill."

People's radar might be up for online pharmacies based in some foreign countries, but she cautioned people not to overlook potential problems with Canadian online pharmacies and their promises of cheaper prices.

"I respect that they are desperate and are looking for better ways to get cheaper drugs, but we just want to put up the red flag and ask them to check before they part with their hard-earned money," Marshall said.

Because the source of medications from international pharmacies cannot be verified, verifybeforeyoubuy.org would NOT list any pharmacy outside the US as legitimate.

Dr. Garett Franklin, a family physician in Cary, said he used VerifyBeforeYouBuy.org to check out an online pharmacy a patient wanted to use and found it was bogus.

"This is a real problem we're seeing," Franklin said.

He is now spreading the warning to his patients and said he hopes other physicians will do likewise.

"If there's anything that seems kind of funny, just check it out. Have that conversation with your patient," he said.

Consumers Reports also warns against buying from online pharmacies outside the US. They say you could get medication that's either fake or low quality.

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