More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Health Canada Reminds Consumers About the Risks of Buying Drugs Online
August 7, 2009

OTTAWA - Health Canada is reminding Canadians about the potential dangers of buying prescription drugs online, following an August 7, 2009 announcement by the R.C.M.P. regarding the dismantling of a counterfeit drug network.

While legitimate online Canadian businesses are an option to consider, the online purchase of any drug poses the potential for serious health risks, especially when drugs are shipped directly to Canadian consumers from sources outside of Canada. Consumers should be aware that some Internet sites may falsely claim to be Canadian, and consumers can identify if a drug has been shipped to them from a foreign country by checking the shipping information on the exterior of the package.

Buying drugs from an Internet-based business that does not provide a street address and telephone number may pose serious health risks because consumers have no way of knowing where these companies are located, where they get their drugs, what is in their drugs, or how to reach them if there is a problem. Buying drugs on the Internet may also pose financial risks: the product may not be shipped at all, or if it is coming from another country, it could be stopped and refused entry at the border by Canadian authorities.

If you order from these sites, you may get counterfeit drugs that may contain the incorrect dose, the wrong ingredients, dangerous additives, or no active ingredients at all, which could result in potentially serious health risks. Even if these drugs do not harm you directly or immediately, your condition may get worse without effective treatment.

In order to minimize the risk of purchasing counterfeit drugs, consumers who choose to purchase their medication via the Internet should not do business with any Web site or company that:

  • refuses to give a street address, telephone number or way of contacting a pharmacist;
  • offers prescription drugs without a prescription;
  • offers to issue a prescription based on answers to an online questionnaire;
  • claims to have a "miracle cure" for any serious condition;
  • sells products that are not approved for sale in Canada; or
  • sells products that are being provided directly to consumers from foreign sources.
If you order prescription drugs without being examined and monitored by a health care practitioner, you may be misdiagnosed, and miss the opportunity to get appropriate treatment that would help you. You may also put yourself at risk for drug interactions, or harmful side effects that a qualified health professional could better foresee.

In order to minimize risk, Canadians should only take medication that has been prescribed to them by their doctor. Patients should be aware of the name of the drugs they are taking and be familiar with their usual colour, size, shape and any imprints or markings on the drug. Patients who are concerned that they may have received counterfeit drugs should consult their physician immediately.

Counterfeit products may have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • labels with spelling mistakes;
  • labels with no Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Product Number (NPN); or
  • product having different taste or flavour than the product normally used.
  • Consumers who may have encountered suspected counterfeit health products are encouraged to contact Health Canada by calling 1-800-267-9675.
In Canada, pharmacies are regulated by the provinces. If you have questions about whether an Internet pharmacy is legitimate, please contact the licensing body in your province or territory.

For more information, please visit the It's Your Health articles:

Buying Drugs Over the Internet
Buying Medical Devices over the Internet
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