Wise Use of e-Drugstores

Wise Use of e-Drugstores

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§Be careful of sites that use impressive-sounding terminology without providing scientific research results or those that claim the government, the medical profession, or research scientists have conspired to suppress a product.

  • Beware of sites that advertise a "new cure" for a serious disorder or a quick cure-all for a wide range of ailments.

§Steer clear of sites that include undocumented testimonials from people claiming "amazing" results.

§Compare actual costs including shipping before you buy. A recent study by Bernard Bloom of the University of Pennsylvania compared prices for Viagra and Propecia online with those at five Philadelphia-area pharmacies. Bloom found that, on average, drug prices were 10 percent higher on the Internet, even before adding in the $8 to $35 shipping charge.

  • Check with your insurance company to see if they will cover medicine bought over the Internet. The online pharmacies say they''ve made progress in negotiating insurance coverage but many health plans have their own mail-order drug plan and may not cooperate with the online drugstores. Filling a prescription from your own doctor for a chronic condition at an online drugstore may be both convenient and cost-effective, assuming your insurance plan agrees (to find out, you''ll have to submit insurance information online).

  • Inspect all drugs on arrival to see that you have received the proper drug and correct dosage. Actually, this advice applies to drugs from your local pharmacy as well as to online drugstores. Several state boards of pharmacy have linked understaffing to patterns of mistakes by the high-volume chains that now dominate the industry. Consumers now buy an estimated 3 billion prescriptions each year - two pills for every one they bought in 1989. Yet pharmacy schools turn out about the same number of druggists as they did in 1989, creating what drugstore owners call a national pharmacist shortage. Having to fill more prescriptions over longer workdays leads to a growing number of mistakes.

§Finally, if you suspect a site is illegal, you can report it to FDA by sending an e-mail to webcomplaints@ora.fda.gov.

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