RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With the soaring costs of medicine, folks are looking for ways to save money on the drugs they buy.
One alternative is using the internet to try and get medicine from a low cost Canadian pharmacy or other online site but how do you know that site is legit?
When you go to a local pharmacy, there’s no doubt about the quality of the drugs they are dispensing. But once you go on the internet, you can’t tell from the website you’re looking at what kind of business it is — is it legit or a fraud?
“The FDA Believes 97 percent of pharmacies online are rogue pharmacies that are not what they say they are,” says North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.
These rogue pharmacies use tactics like sending customers’ placebos and pills with minimal amounts of the active ingredient, as well as more directly harmful methods like sending pills containing toxic or otherwise dangerous components.
“If we stick a pill in our body, we expect it to do what the doctor wanted it to do,” says Marshall.
Marshall has taken a personal interest in the issue.
“I’ve talked to people who’ve had spouses unfortunately die from not receiving the right medicines,” Marshall said.
So how do you save money and get real drugs from a legit internet pharmacy?
North Carolina is now collaborating with the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, a nonprofit founded with the goal of helping consumers keep themselves and their families safe by avoiding rogue pharmacies while purchasing medication online.
North Carolina is now the first state in the nation to offer an online verification website for internet pharmacies.
“You cut and paste the address of the pharmacy you are looking at into the tool and it will tell you if it is a rogue, legitimate or if it can’t determine,” said Marshall.
The state says the idea for the verification website grew out of its investigation into a flood of fake drugs on the streets.
“We first became aware of counterfeit goods through lifestyle drugs. Now it’s diabetes, blood pressure meds – everything. It’s not just Cialis and Viagra,” said Marshall.
The state says the verification site is being funded by a $50,000 grant from some of the big internet companies.
“Folks like PayPal, Google and Microsoft don’t want their good tools to be used for no good; so they’ve ponied up money because they are concerned about this,” says Marshall.
Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.