Know the prescription for finding safe online pharmacies

Many Americans have trouble affording their medications. In fact, numerous recent news reports document the skyrocketing costs of prescriptions. Spending on medications was up 13 percent, totaling $374 billion last year alone, according to one report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

The high cost of prescriptions means people have trouble affording all their treatments, and often make hard choices between paying the bills and taking their medications. Many people skip doses, split pills or cut back on their medications. In 2012, 50 million Americans did not fill a prescription due to cost, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Other people delay treatment or don’t adhere to their medication schedule, which causes further problems that can likely harm their health.

With the high cost of drugs, consumers frequently turn to online pharmacies for their purchases of health maintenance medications (or prescriptions taken daily to manage chronic health conditions like high blood pressure or cholesterol). In fact, 64 percent purchase from Canadian pharmacies online due to affordability, recent survey of American customers by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) found. Maintenance medications ordered from these pharmacies may cost up to 80 percent less than U.S. prices.

However, not all websites selling medications online are legitimate, and consumers need to be able to identify the safe pharmacies. There are bad operators on the Internet that engage in a variety of unsafe practices and may sell medications without requiring a prescription, won’t tell you who they are or where they are located, or sell substandard or counterfeit products. CIPA maintains a list of fraudulent websites that consumers can use before making a purchase.

Another tip is to look for the CIPA-verified seal on online pharmacy websites. These pharmacies have maintained a 100 percent perfect safety record since the seal was established in 2002 and have served more than 10 million U.S. consumers.

Pharmacies with the CIPA-verified seal must:

* Require a valid prescription from a patient’s U.S. doctor;

* Obtain demographic and medical information from the patient and maintain a health profile with history to avoid adverse drug interactions;

* Employ a licensed pharmacist on staff for patient consultation;

* Provide the same quality controls and convenience as a U.S. mail-order pharmacy;

* List the company’s address and phone number on the website; and

* Maintain patient privacy and confidentiality.

When shopping, consumers can look for the seal on the website and then click on the seal to reveal the verification code or check www.cipa.com/verify to ensure the online pharmacy is a legitimate provider.

You can stay safe when shopping online for medications if you follow a prescription for finding safe online pharmacies.

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