Note: Material related to the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ (VIPPS™) program is currently under review.
It is becoming easier and easier for Canadians to purchase drugs over the Internet. A quick Internet search will turn up hundreds if not thousands of websites just waiting to sell you any and all drugs you require. It may sound convenient and cheap, but if you purchase drugs over the Internet, you may be exposing yourself to serious health risks.
Illegitimate businesses posing as pharmacies come and go on almost a daily basis. One company posing as a legitimate pharmacy may have many URL’s or web addresses creating the impression that there are a greater number of outlets selling drugs over the internet than actually exist. While there are some legitimate outlets selling drugs over the internet, an overwhelming number of these outlets are operating illegally and may sell you inappropriate or dangerous drugs. A review by the US National Association of Boards of Pharmacy revealed that 97% of the online pharmacy sites they examined could not be recommended due to conflicts with pharmacy laws and standards 1. Information from the World Health Organization states that 50% of medicines purchased over the Internet from sites that conceal their physical addresses are counterfeit 1,2.
Any outlet selling drugs over the Internet should be held to the same standards of care as a regular “brick and mortar” pharmacy. NAPRA has released a “Model Standards for Canadian Pharmacists Offering Pharmacy Services via the Internet” as a guideline for any pharmacist wishing to provide services via the Internet. This helps assure that pharmacists are providing the same standard of care over the Internet as they would in a traditional store. However, this is only the case for legitimate, licensed pharmacies and cannot be assured for the vast majority of websites that are out there.
NAPRA does not regulate pharmacies. Regulations of pharmacies, pharmacists and the sale of drugs in Canada is primarily the jurisdiction of NAPRA’s members: the provincial or territorial pharmacy regulatory bodies.
Go to Questions and Answers for Consumers
1. National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Buying Medicine Online [homepage on the Internet]. c2012 [accessed 2012 Apr29-May5]. Available from: www.nabp.net/programs/consumer-protection/buying-medicine-online/
2. World Health Organization. Fact Sheet on Counterfeit medicines [homepage on the Internet]. c2006 [updated 2006 Nov14; accessed 2012 Apr29-May5]. Available from: http://www.who.int/medicines/services/counterfeit/impact/ImpactF_S/en/index.html