White Plains, New York – October 12, 2012 – Are non-U.S. online pharmacies safe to use? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration would like you to think they are not, but independent research continues to show that they are. New data published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that medication ordered from credentialed online pharmacies, foreign or domestic, was genuine and safe. Only non-credentialed pharmacies sold products which were not genuine. The main difference between credentialed foreign and domestic pharmacies was price: Non-U.S. pharmacies sold the same drugs at an average 51% discount. The study, "In Whom We Trust: The Role of Certification Agencies In Online Drug Markets," suggests that FDA warnings about non-U.S. online pharmacies are overly broad and may scare Americans from affordable medication. The study was conducted by Roger Bate, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Aparna Mathur from (AEI), and Ginger Zhe Jin of the University of Maryland and NBER.
Buying drugs for personal use, mailed from Canada and other countries, remains technically illegal for Americans but, for over a decade, the United States has generally not interfered with individuals importing medication for their own use. Recently, however, the government has begun to campaign against personal drug importation. For example, last week, the FDA launched "Be Safe Rx," a campaign which warns Americans to avoid all non-U.S. online pharmacies as well as rogue U.S. pharmacy websites. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg kicked off the campaign stating, "If the low prices seem too good to be true, they probably are." To the contrary, the new study found that purchasing at certified non-U.S. pharmacies "could lead to substantial savings … without compromising drug safety." In fact, non-credentialed pharmacies actually sold medication at higher prices than credentialed pharmacies.
The study also found that all credentialed online pharmacies, foreign and domestic, required a prescription. The NBER study's authors wrote: "We suspect the FDA guideline against any foreign websites is most likely based on FDA lack of jurisdiction and inability to oversee quality outside of US, rather than a careful assessment between drug safety and price savings."
The FDA's Be Safe Rx website includes the following tips to warn Americans that an online pharmacy is fake. Many of these tips are false when it comes to credentialed Non-U.S. online pharmacies and could lead to Americans to forgo needed medication that they cannot afford in the United States.
WARNING! Beware of online pharmacies that:
- Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription from your doctor — TRUE
- Offer deep discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true — FALSE
- Send spam or unsolicited email offering cheap drugs — TRUE
- Are located outside of the United States — FALSE
- Are not licensed in the United States — FALSE
The new study included a survey of 2,522 people who use online pharmacies. Asked why they use non-U.S. pharmacies, the most common answer (93% of respondents) was "cheaper overseas." Over 40% of respondents indicated checking with a certifying agency before choosing an online pharmacy. According to the researchers, the findings "convey a consistent message that certification agencies deliver useful information for foreign websites and online consumers."
The survey found no association with use of online pharmacies and use of pain medication, which is consistent with the fact that non-U.S. pharmacies are not permitted to sell narcotic medications to Americans.
Dr. Tod Cooperman, MD, president of PharmacyChecker.com, the major American credentialing agency and drug price comparison website said, "To protect the public health, FDA actions should take dead aim at dangerous pharmacy sites, drug counterfeiters, and wholesale importation that affect our nation's drug supply. It should not scare Americans away from safe and affordable medication, as this only leads to more Americans going without medication, resulting in more sickness, hospitalizations and deaths." The survey portion of the new research found that using online pharmacies was most closely associated with a person using medication for asthma/allergy, blood pressure, and diabetes – all conditions for which medication compliance is essential.
Founded in 2002 by Tod Cooperman, M.D. to help Americans find the best drug prices from verified online pharmacies, PharmacyChecker.com's pharmacy ratings and drug price comparisons are free to consumers. PharmacyChecker.com, based in New York, is privately held with no ownership in or from companies that sell or distribute pharmacy products.