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The number of people using the internet to buy medicines has increased over the years. Of-course it is convenient but are you aware of the possible hazards?

Possible risks of buying medicines from unregistered pharmacies:

a.) The medicines could be contaminated and could lead to serious side effects
b.) The medicine could contain a wrong active ingredient which is not approved by authorizing organizations like the FDA.
c.) The medication could be too old and may even be well past their 'sell by date'. This would reduce the effectiveness of the medicine.
d.) Products may be manufactured under non-standard conditions and could contain wrong amounts of the active ingredients
e.) In-case the product fails to be effective or cause harm, patients will have no legal recourse against the pharmacy if it is located outside the US or UK

How to protect yourself:

Look for the following in the pharmacy website before making the buy:

1.) Contact Information: Pharmacies that sell counterfeit medications are generally based in third world nations. So check to find where the pharmacy is located. Buy medications only from pharmacies located in the US if you are a US resident or UK if you are a UK resident. All legitimate websites contain proper contact information along with details of the name of the business owner and superintendent pharmacist.  

2.) Registrations and Licenses: All legitimate pharmacies are affiliated/approved by a licensing authority. So check the website to find the seal/logo of approval.  

For UK residents: Check to see if the website is affiliated to Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB). Any website participating with the RPSGB will have a distinct logo representing the same on its frontpage/homepage. For instance, check this [Link Removed] and you will be able to find a green square logo on the left panel. Checking the logo will take you to a page that contains a link to the RPSGB page that has details about the pharmacist running the website and information about location of the pharmacy.

For US residents:* Check to see if the pharmacy is licensed by the state board of pharmacy. You can check to get a list of state boards of pharmacy. In-addition, check the frontpage of the website to see if the site has a VIPPS seal. VIPPS stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites and websites having this seal are 100% legitimate. After finding the seal click on the seal to check if the license is valid. The link should take you to the website where you should be able to find a verification link

c.) Professional Support: Call the pharmacy to see if they have genuine support facility and a working US phone number. Also find out if they have a licensed pharmacist available to attend to customer queries

d.) Legitimate Practices: Over the counter drugs can be sold without prescriptions by it is illegal to sell prescription drugs without prescription from a licensed medical professional. Make it a point not to buy prescription drugs from websites that do not require you to present a doctor's prescription before selling the medicines. This is illegal and websites that resort to this are generally fraudulent  

e.) Proper Privacy Policy: Look for privacy and security policies on the website that are easy to find and easy to understand.

f.) Secure Payment Gateways: Check to see if the website uses secure payment gateways to process your order online. You can identify a secure gateway by looking at the 'https' sign in the URL of the payment gateway. The letter 's' stands for 'secure'

Looks can deceive and this is exactly what applies to websites selling prescription and over the counter drugs on the internet. Websites can look legitimate but still be selling lower grade products. Considering this is a matter where your health is involved, follow proper precautions and make informed decisions before buying your drugs online.

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