Last month, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global), the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), and the National Consumers League (NCL) launched a campaign to educate seniors and their caregivers about the risk of buying drugs from illegal online pharmacies. They also unveiled a new website, www.xtherisk.com, to provide information to consumers, pharmacists, physicians, and others about the risks.
“We are trying to raise awareness about this new tool, so it becomes common for consumers to look to the right of the dot for the word ‘pharmacy’” to help identify legitimate online pharmacy sites, said Libby Baney, executive director for ASOP Global.
The high cost of drugs prescribed for chronic conditions such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and hepatitis C has driven many older Americans to look for cheaper alternatives on the internet.
The problem is that the majority of online pharmacies (approximately 35,000 to 45,000) are illegal — they don’t comply with U.S. laws, and half the medicines sold online are counterfeit, she noted.
“It is a risky proposition, especially for seniors who are spending large portions of their income on out-of-pocket costs,” Baney said. Medicare beneficiaries with Part D coverage have spent $4,000 to $12,000 on out-of-pocket costs associated with the four chronic conditions listed above.
To verify an online pharmacy, consumers can go to the www.xtherisk.com website and enter the URL of the online pharmacy they want to purchase from, to see whether it has undergone the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s screening process, said Marjorie Clifton, executive director of CSIP, whose organization took down more than 1 million illegal websites last year.
In the fall, ASOP Global, CSIP, and NCL will be reaching out to healthcare providers, including pharmacists, to deliver the message about health and safety through the use of legitimate online pharmacies.