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Entries in Pharmacies (4)

Friday
Sep282012

FDA: Beware Buying Prescription Drugs Online

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A moving target of as many as 40,000 active online pharmacies, a huge majority of them fly-by-night start-ups, may sell products at a cut-rate price but they may also deliver expired, contaminated and fake drugs that can harm consumers, the FDA said Friday.

"You have no guarantee of the safety, efficacy or quality of those products," Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told ABC News. "You want to go to an online pharmacy that is licensed, located in the United States, [and] importantly, that will ask for a prescription from a doctor."

On Friday, the FDA launched BeSafeRx, a national campaign to alert consumers to the possible dangers of buying pharmaceuticals online.

"This a real problem. In fact, it is a growing problem, it is a problem that we are doing everything we can ... to try and protect the safety and security of the drug supply chain," Hamburg said. "The consumers have a role to play, as well, and that's why we want them to be informed about how to recognize a safe and legal online pharmacy so they can get those drugs that they really do need."

In May, the FDA surveyed more than 6,000 adults and found that almost a quarter of Internet shoppers bought prescription drugs online, and three in 10 said they weren't confident they could do so safely.

What many consumers don't realize is they are more likely online to get fake drugs that are contaminated or past their expiration date, or contain no active ingredient, the wrong amount of active ingredient or even toxic substances such as arsenic and rat poison.

They could sicken or kill people, cause them to develop a resistance to their real medicine, cause new side effects or trigger harmful interactions with other medications being taken.

Just how easy is it to set up an online pharmacy?

Two University of California, San Diego medical researchers showed ABC News how they set up their own fake drug store using search engines, Facebook and Twitter to draw potential buyers, and no pharmaceutical degree or any medical license, is required to set up any of these websites.

Timothy Mackey, a doctoral student in the joint doctoral program between San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego created a fake pharmacy in less than 15 minutes and for less than $80.

"We basically created a Web app which is very descriptive and has a medical professional, a picture of a person that we just purchased, and we were able to post it online without any verification or requirements at all," Mackey said.

A hit-and-run pharmacy is lightning fast to start and even faster to disappear -- all before authorities can catch up.

"The bad guys know when they're getting chased, so they just shut down with a minute, and then literally within another hour they've set themselves right back up again," said Brian Liang, head of the Center for Patient Safety at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. "What it's telling us is that there's clearly no enforcement, and Facebook and others in this space are making money off of illicit drug sales."

Liang and Mackey said their mock sites saw more than 1,000 unique users in the 10 months they were active. The outgoing links they included went to a "dead page," and they did not actually sell any pharmaceuticals.

While there are some legitimate online pharmacies, about two percent according to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, how can you tell which are legitimate and which are fake?

According to the FDA, watch out for sites that ...

1. ... allow you to buy drugs without a prescription;
2. ... offer deep discounts that seem too good to be true;
3. ... send unsolicited emails offering cheap drugs;
4. ... are located outside of the United States, beyond the reach of regulators.

"If you find out about the website because of spam or unsolicited email, be very, very careful," Hamburg said. "If the price is bedrock cheap and it seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. And if it is not located in the United States and it's offering to ship drugs worldwide, another red flag; don't go there."

Liang added that when they were searching for online pharmacies, the first 10 pages of hits was comprised entirely of fake pharmacies, and they did not come to a legitimate site until page 10 in the Google search results.

The new "BeSafeRx" website allows consumers to check a pharmacy's license through state boards of pharmacy, as well as providing tips for shopping online and seeing the signs of a fake pharmacy.

"We want consumers to be able to get safe, effective, high-quality drugs," Hamburg said. "And if they want to order them online that is terrific, but use a safe and legal online pharmacy."

"The important messages," Hamburg added, "are have a prescription, know your online pharmacy, make sure it is safe and take your medication as directed."

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy also recommends only using Internet pharmacies accredited through Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites or Vet-VIPPS program. It also provides a listing of "Not Recommended Sites."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr062012

Pharmacies Fueling Prescription Drug Trade?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The prescription drug trade is booming and the Drug Enforcement Administration believes some rogue pharmacies could be fueling the epidemic.

On Friday, the DEA confirmed that it is now investigating Walgreens, the nation’s biggest drugstore.

In Florida, six Walgreens stores were investigated after inspectors spotted a major red flag, a huge spike in the amount of the highly addictive painkiller Oxycodone the stores were ordering from distributors.

One of the stores under scrutiny bought 95,000 doses in 2009 and over 2.1 million doses in 2011, about 30 times the amount a typical pharmacy would buy.

Two Florida CVS pharmacies with similar massive purchases were recently banned from selling painkillers altogether after the DEA determined there was “imminent danger to the public health.”

Both pharmacy chains have said they are cooperating with the DEA.

The DEA fears rogue pharmacies could be illegally filing prescriptions for greedy doctors involved in black market distribution networks, or selling painkillers directly to addicts.

The potential profits are huge. One estimate put the number of prescription drug abusers at seven million.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr052012

Pharmacies Targeted by Dealers, Addicts Desperate for Painkillers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In Phoenix, two men tied up pharmacy employees while another stole painkillers.

On New Year's Eve in 2011, an armed robber demanding Oxycontin and money at a Long Island, N.Y., pharmacy encountered an off-duty Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent and two police officers as he was leaving. He and the ATF agent were killed.

Law enforcement say that armed robbers looking for prescription drugs are turning some neighborhood pharmacies into danger zones.

At another Long Island pharmacy, an addict in search of drugs for his wife fatally shot four people, including a 17-year-old clerk days from her high school graduation, in June 2011. He then left with a backpack full of prescription painkillers. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Since 2006, there has been an 82-percent rise in pharmacy robberies -- from 385 in 2006 to 701 in 2011 -- and 3,535 pharmacies have been hit.

Police say the surge is being fueled by the nation's prescription drug abuse epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 14,800 prescription painkiller deaths.

Law enforcement says the robbers are typically drug dealers who know they can make huge profits -- up to $80 a pill -- on the street. But some of the thieves are simply desperate addicts.

In the summer of 2011, the bass player for the rock group Coheed and Cambria was accused of robbing a Massachusetts Walgreens pharmacy of Oxycontin. He allegedly threatened to detonate a bomb. He reportedly headed back to the band's concert venue with bottles of pills.

Bruce Goodarzi, a Rockville, Md., pharmacist, said the robbers who'd broken into his store twice in one month were after painkillers like Oxycontin or Vicodin.

"We're talking about thousands of the pills," he told ABC News. "They are going right to the drug cabinet."

Pharmacies are beefing up their security systems -- adding watchdogs and guards -- and also storing drugs in safes. Goodarzi said he built a steel cage to protect the painkillers.

Others are refusing to stock the medications or are getting guns to protect themselves in the hopes that potential criminals pass them by.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar222012

Fake Pharmacies Create Drug Shortages

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- University of Maryland head women's basketball coach Brenda Frese is not afraid of challenging authority, especially off the court when it involves her 4-year-old son, Tyler, who has leukemia. Frese was shocked when she discovered that the treatment he required was threatened by a cancer drug shortage.

“Let’s wake up here,” Frese told ABC News. “How many people have to die....It makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.”

So Frese wrote to her congressman, Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and found out that fake pharmacies are one big reason for the shortage.

“What they do is, they horde the drugs and basically create the shortage,” Cummings said. “Not only is it insensitive, it’s criminal.”

Here’s how it works: The fake pharmacy, which is licensed, acts as a middleman. But rather than dispensing short-supply drugs to patients, as their licenses require, they buy drugs from the manufacturer, then sell the drugs to a wholesale company they also own. The wholesale company, which is often at the same address as the fake pharmacy, then offers the drugs to desperate hospitals, often at an even higher price.

Investigators say fake pharmacies sold a $15 vial of cancer-fighting fluorouracil to hospitals for $350.

Congress sent 19 letters to supposed pharmacies across the country this week and are working with state authorities to pull their licenses. North Carolina closed one that never actually saw any customers, and whose shelves had few drugs, only those that were in short supply.

“We’re paying a ridiculous price for many of these drugs, sometimes marked up 100, 200, 300 percent for a drug that we get for a couple of bucks,” said Dr. Jennifer Brandt, clinical specialist pharmacist at Washington Hospital Center.

It’s an illegal action that creates shortages, increases costs and threatens cancer treatments for patients like Tyler Frese.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio