New survey reveals majority of consumers are unaware of risks associated with online pharmacies, oppose legalizing prescription drug importation.
Results from a comprehensive survey of 500 U.S. residents* to evaluate consumer behavior and perceptions about online pharmacies were released Wednesday by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global).
“This is especially timely because as millions of Americans face the prospect of changes in their healthcare coverage should Congress repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act, or legalize prescription drug importation from Canada, people may turn to the Internet to access prescription medicines,” said Libby Baney, ASOP Global’s executive director.
Key Survey Findings
While 55 percent of those polled have bought or would consider buying prescription medicines online, 91 percent of respondents have not discussed the risks with their healthcare providers and 95 percent said they were not aware of the tools available to verify the safety of online pharmacies.
“These statistics are alarming since there are 33,000 illegal online pharmacies at any given time and 100 percent of Internet searches for ‘buy medicine online’ lead consumers to dangerous pharmacy websites, increasing their chances of receiving counterfeit medications from unknown sources,” Baney explained.
“One in five of previous online pharmacy users said they just typed the name of their medication into a search engine and chose a website at random, rather than ordering from a pharmacy site associated with their local pharmacy, such as CVS.com, or from one approved by their insurance plan or the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy,” Baney added.
“Since Purdue University’s research found that even licensed pharmacists typically cannot differentiate legitimate from illegal online pharmacies just by looking at a website, the average consumer is all the more susceptible to falling prey to illegal pharmacy websites that offer ‘too good to be true’ prices, claims of selling ‘genuine Canadian medicines,’ and other tactics that put patients at risk,” said ASOP Global board member John B. Hertig, PharmD, MS, CPPS, associate director at the Purdue’s Center for Medication Safety Advancement (CMSA).
Canadian Online Pharmacies
Only 5 percent of poll respondents said they would be “very likely” to use a government-sponsored list of “safe” Canadian websites, as promised by members of Congress who support legislation that would legalize importation of prescription drugs from Canada.
In addition, 59 percent of respondents said they were opposed to legalizing importation after being provided with information specifically pertaining to Canadian online pharmacies, including:
- Hundreds of illegal Canadian online pharmacies do not require valid prescriptions for controlled substances like Percocet, Vicodin and fentanyl, so legalizing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada will exacerbate the U.S. opioid epidemic by making it easier for those struggling with substance abuse and drug traffickers to purchase these drugs online;
- Canadian officials have said they cannot guarantee that Americans will receive safe medicines when ordering from Canadian online pharmacies. In fact, the FDA found that 85 percent of medicines sold to Americans by Canadian online pharmacies are from other foreign countries;
- Since 2010, there have been more than 200 felony counts against networks operating 400,000 websites affiliated with Canadian online pharmacies. However, U.S. consumers often have no legal remedies available if they are harmed by medication purchased from a Canadian pharmacy website.
“All of these findings prove that much more education is needed,” Baney said. “In addition to encouraging people to verify the safety of their pharmacy website before buying prescription medicines online and take advantage of organizations that help patients save money on medicines, ASOP Global will continue to work tirelessly to educate, advocate for and protect consumers around the globe.”
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to combatting illegal online pharmacies and counterfeit medicines to make the Internet safe for consumers worldwide.
* Poll demographics mimic age and gender for national averages
(Source: PR Newswire)