As patients shop online for prescriptions during pandemic, fake online pharmacies multiply

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With so many stuck at home, online prescription sales have taken off. But when you buy online how do you know the prescriptions you receive are safe?

ABC7's Michael Finney asked on hisFacebook page if anyone had ever been ripped off by an online pharmacy. Thousands checked the post but thankfully none reported an outright fraud.

Marjorie Clifton heads the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies.

He told her what folks on social media were saying, and she isn't so sure the picture is that rosy.

"One of the things we have learned is that a lot of consumers feel shame when they are duped when buying something online," she said.

She said that mixed in with the online pharmacies that are known and trusted are little-known brands, some of which are not known at all to U.S. regulators.

"The FDA and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy report that 97 percent of the online pharmacies you find when searching for a pharmacy on the internet are illegitimate, which means they are not certified under US law," she said.

Some of the fake websites steal your money or ID. Others send out fake drugs.

"A lot of the counterfeiters will send what looks like your prescriptions," Clifton said. "It will come in a box with serial numbers, identical packaging, very, very sophisticated, so much so we have to work with law enforcement who are chemically testing the medications to find out what it really is."

Many Americans have been going to Canada to get their prescriptions filled at a discount. The bad guys know that, so now they pretend to be in Canada.

Clifton said, "We have medications coming in from China and India and counterfeiters from the four corners of the world who are pretending to be a Canadian website."

Here's the good news: There is an easy way to check up on your online pharmacy.

Just go to www.verifybeforeyoubuy.org. Put in the pharmacy's url and it will instantly tell you if the place is legit.



Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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