The Dangers of Online Pharmacies

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- You can find just about anything on the Internet these days, including prescription medications. They may be a lot cheaper online but many of these pharmacies shouldn't be trusted. In fact some are delivering counterfeit drugs, drugs that could cause serious health risks.

Pharmacists at SwedishAmerican Hospital say about 15% of medication on the market is counterfeit. So now the Institute of Medicine is calling for the creation of a tracking system, similar to the court system's "chain of custody" requirements. Where a drug is verified and the ingredients used in it are authenticated at every step. This may be necessary. Tom Carey, SwedishAmerican Director Pharmacy Services, reports seeing a lot of patients in the ER concerned about their bodies reacting strangely to medications.

"If by chance you get a medication from a different country and it winds up being counterfeit, it could be a different dose, strength or it be filled with sugar or salt, which means it would either have no effect or it could potentially worsen your disease state, or more dangerously could have a more pronounced effect," Carey said.

On top of that the drug may not be stored or shipped properly. And such conditions could also alter the drug's effects.

Here are some red flags: If there is a discount offered on the drug or can be purchased without a prescription. We should avoid those that don't disclose the drug's origin. Or if it's from Eastern Europe, where there isn't much oversight. And even if it's a Canadian pharmacy, that doesn't mean the drug is actually from Canada. Canada may be simply serving as a stopping point between another country and the United States.

Carey says if you do buy prescriptions online, he recommends

There are also problems with counterfeit drugs showing up in doctors' offices. Last week the FDA warned doctors, including some in Illinois that they might have bought a fake version of the cancer fighting drug Avastin. That's the third time it's happened in about a year.

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