publicandprivatespace

March 6, 2011

Internet Pharmacies: Better Safe Than Sorry

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 11:44 pm

By: Sarah Williams

While online pharmacies may be convenient and easy, they provide some very serious risks that usually outweigh the benefits. However, there are some things that can be done in order to lessen the risks.

Firstly, only buy from online pharmacies that are on the list on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s website. Doing this will ensure that the website is a safe, legitimate pharmacy. For well known pharmacies such as drugstore.com and cvs.com, there is little to no chance that someone’s credit card or medical information will be used maliciously. However, if someone buys from a rogue pharmacy that has not been accredited, the owners of the website could easily steal credit card and bank account information when the customers buys something, or sell their medical information to their-party advertisers.

Under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws, all legitimate pharmacies, online and bricks-and-mortar, are legally required to protect their patients’ medical information. In bricks-and-mortar pharmacies this is much easier to accomplish. There are strict rules about who has access to medical records in a pharmacy and where they must be stored. For online pharmacies, most of these laws don’t apply. HIPAA laws are thorough and work well for most institutions, but they don’t specify anything for online pharmacies. Internet privacy laws also apply to internet pharmacies, but given the sensitivity of one’s medical information, the outdated general privacy laws do not protect it fully. There have also been problems with state laws contradicting one another, and since most orders from online pharmacies come from other states besides the one the main location is, these state laws are often broken.

Secondly, only buy prescription drugs if with a prescription. The websites that tend to be the most dangerous are the ones that do not require a prescription. These are the “rogue” pharmacies that sell medical information and commit financial fraud. There are very few online pharmacies that pose a threat to one’s financial information, since these are the ones that are most dangerous and most quickly shut down. However, they are out there and credit card fraud can cause huge amounts of damage to credit scores and can result in identity theft. Online pharmacy websites can be coded very quickly and the potential buyers will never know if the main location is an actual bricks-and-mortar pharmacy or a couple of illegal drug dealers sitting in their basement. This is an increasingly popular way to commit financial fraud.

Thirdly, use a browser that disables cookies, like Google Chrome. If the the “incognito” setting on Chrome is used, even if someone do accidentally buy from a rogue pharmacy, his or her medical and credit card information and passwords will not be stored. The downside to using web browsers like this is that there are many websites that won’t even function properly if cookies are disabled.

If these guidelines are followed, online pharmacies can be a convenient, safe way of buying medication, prescription or otherwise.

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2 Comments »

  1. -Zack Deidesheimer

    I agree with your point that online pharmacies are a safe way to fill prescriptions as long as the sites are reliable. The only risk to privacy being invaded is the possiblity of credit card information being leaked. In my opinion, there are far greater risks at retail pharmacies. Retail pharmacies can be very chaotic and private information can be leaked by the smallest mistakes and carelessness. If at all possible, I would definitely advise people to fill their prescriptions online. I think the benefits of an online pharmacy strongly outweigh the risks.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 10:38 am | Reply

  2. I’ve never used an online pharmacy before. This might be because I’ve just turned eighteen and before then it was illegal, but whenever I visited the doctor’s office and had a prescription filled for an illness, my mom would go to the pharmacy up the street to pick it up. In person is a much more trustworthy way to pick up a prescription for sure. I know I wouldn’t want all my medical and financial information in a potentially untrustworthy database. However, I understand that for busy people, the elderly, and anyone else who has a difficult time aquiring the prescription they need, online pharmacies are more convenient. I agree on the importance of raising awareness for how to safely get the prescriptions a person needs.

    Comment by Kelly Seibert — March 9, 2011 @ 10:45 am | Reply


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