The Role of Online Pharmacies in the Prescription Epidemic and What’s Being Done about It

prescriptionPrescription drugs are thought by many to be safe because they are prescribed and recommended by licensed medical doctors and distributed by pharmacists.  However, the truth is that prescription drugs can be just as dangerous and addictive as illicit drugs.  In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug overdoses cause more deaths annually than illicit drug overdoses, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. 

The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that almost thirty percent of individuals who used drugs for the first time began with the non-medical use of prescription drugs.  Individuals who desire to abuse prescription drugs (use them non-medically for the pleasant feelings they can cause) can obtain them in a number of ways:

– From unethical medical staff selling prescriptions illegally and without proper exam and diagnosis

– From unethical pharmacy staff selling prescription medications illegally

– From someone else’s medicine cabinet, without their knowledge or permission

– From someone who has stolen them from the individual for whom they were prescribed

– From online pharmacies

The Truth about Online Pharmacies

A pharmacy is supposed to be where medical prescriptions are made up, implying a legal path by which an individual can receive a medical exam and prescription for a medical condition, and get a prescription medication to resolve that condition.  However, in an effort to raise profits and easily get drugs into the hands of more customers, drug traffickers have found a way to illegally sell prescription medications online through online “pharmacies” that often require no prescription.

In order to convince consumers that their prescription drugs are safe, many illegal online pharmacies display fake licenses and certifications and claim that their drugs are brand name and FDA approved, even though this is usually untrue.  Some illegal online pharmacies even use the names of major US pharmacy retailers to trick consumers into believing they are connected with these reputable companies.

What’s Being Done About the Prescription Epidemic

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration enforces the Controlled Substances Act by attempting to prevent, detect and investigate the redirection of prescription medications from legitimate channels to illegal channels.  At the same time, the DEA also seeks to ensure that an adequate supply of prescription medications are available for those who are prescribed them for various health conditions and ailments.

The 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan seeks to reduce prescription drug abuse in the following ways.

– Education

In the same way that education on the dangers of illicit drugs can cause individuals to make the informed decision to abstain from drug use, education in the dangers of illegal prescription drug use and abuse can help individuals avoid the illegal and unsafe use of prescription drugs.  Those who prescribe prescription drugs also need to be fully educated on the safe use of these medications, how to store them and how to dispose of them safely.

– Monitoring

Prescription drug monitoring programs in every state will allow healthcare providers across the country to ensure that patients are not “doctor shopping”, obtaining medical exams and prescriptions for the same (and sometimes exaggerated or fictitious) conditions from multiple doctors in order to acquire larger amounts of prescription medication.

– Providing proper medication disposal

Providing safe and convenient ways for individuals to responsibly dispose of unused medications will help ensure that a supply of unused prescription medications does not accumulate in homes.

– Law enforcement

Empowering law enforcement to be able to recognize and shut down illegal prescribing practices and prescription medication sales will help arrest the continuing growth of the prescription epidemic.

In June of 2013, the Food and Drug Administration partnered with law enforcement agencies to take action against more than nine thousand six hundred websites that were illegally selling unapproved prescription medications.  Illegal websites and medications worth over forty million dollars were seized as a result of this action.

As various government and law enforcement agencies work to shut down illegal online pharmacies, consumers need to protect their health by abstaining from prescription medication use without a valid medical prescription.  Furthermore, only local, licensed pharmacies should be trusted in providing approved, legal medications.


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