• University of Phoenix
    As the leading online school in the nation, Phoneix University offers various pharmacology online courses to take in your own time.
  • KAPLAN University
    One of the largest online universities with a widely recognized name, Kaplan University offers a myriad of online pharmacology courses that fit your schedule.
Buying Prescription Drugs Abroad: Legal?
by admin on: March 9th, 2011

In an effort to reduce the costs associated with prescription drugs and medicines, or find a drug or medicine not available in the U.S., many consumers turn to a neighboring country or the Internet in order to address their medical needs. However, before making a purchase, there are several issues a consumer should consider.

Drugs Shipped to the U.S.
Generally speaking, it is illegal for a pharmacy in a foreign country to ship drugs and medicines to the U.S. that are not approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This policy holds even if the drug or medicine being shipped is approved in the country of origin. The reason for this policy is that the U.S. Government and branch institutions want to protect Americans form drugs and medicines that may not have undergone rigorous testing for safety and efficacy.

Concerns Over Drugs From Foreign Countries
The online pharmacies that offer to prescribe medication to a consumer based on an online questionnaire are violating the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. According to the American Medical Association, a health care professional is not providing the consumer (patient) with an appropriate medical standard of care without seeing the patient in person.

A primary concern is that a patient may receive an incorrect diagnosis through this online method. This could lead to a prescription for an inappropriate drug or medication, possibly causing severe adverse consequences for the patient. In the U.S., several state boards of medicine consider operations that dispense medication in this manner to be committing medical misconduct, and will find and suspend the license of the health care practitioners that engage in this practice.

In fact, as of February 2011, the following states have targeted illegitimate online purveyors of prescription drugs and taken action to stop these retailers, usually by issuing a order to cease and desist:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Kansas
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
  • Wisconsin

Not All Online Retailers are Bad
A consumer should not discredit all online retailers in the U.S. and outside the country; there are plenty of legitimate pharmacy sites on the Internet. Elderly patients and patients living in remote areas can benefit from these establishments, as it may prove to be a great inconvenience to travel to a store in order to purchase the medication they require.

Many of these legitimate pharmacies that have websites will allow a consumer to consult with a licensed pharmacist from the home. In addition, a number of these pharmacies will also provide a consumer with written information detailing their product and/or provide sources for further information regarding their product.

What to Do if Your Medicine Is Not Available in U.S.
What if a consumer is told that there is a medicine available for their condition but, it is not legal to purchase in the U.S.? Can an American consumer legally obtain a medication that is not approved in the U.S. by purchasing it from another country?

Generally speaking, the answer is no; it is illegal for an American to import a drug that is not approved in the U.S. Although, Americans should be aware that there is an FDA personal importation policy whereby the FDA, and their inspectors, can use their discretion and allow American residents to import certain pharmaceutical products. Under this FDA policy, a U.S. resident may import an unapproved drug into the country, provided that the drug is for their own personal use and the drug would be used to treat a serious condition.

For more information on this topic, read the FDA’s information on importing prescription drugs.

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