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Once upon a time there used to be a lot of ads on this site, care of Google, from dodgy pharmacies. The overwhelming majority were fraudulent, but at least I’ve told you that often enough. You won’t see too many ads like that any more, as that has landed Google in a bit of trouble. Constantly checking such ads has meant you get to see the back-up ads I have, which take you to Straitjacket T-shirts, our Cafe Press store where you can buy shirts emblazoned with witty messages in our singular pill font, and Burning Mind Books, our Amazon store with the books used as reference material for this site. Google is none too happy with all of that, and is taking action against those crooks.
In a way that makes selecting an online pharmacy both easier and harder. It’s simpler in that you’re not constantly bombarded with ads from hundreds of disreputable sites promising drugs without the need of a prescription; drugs that are usually counterfeit and range from useless to dangerous. It’s more difficult because you might get lazy and think any place that advertises on Crazy Meds via Google (or other sites, including those using Microsoft and Yahoo as ad servers is legitimate. It’s still no guarantee.
Fortunately there are a few easy ways to determine if a pharmacy is unlikely to take your money in exchange for fake meds, if anything at all. The most obvious of which is offering to sell you meds without a prescription or having one of their ‘doctors’ write the prescription for you. Any site doing that is a scam, and you should scan your computer for spyware after leaving.
Some pharmacies will ask for information about the condition(s) you’re treating in order to verify with one of their doctors that you’re not ordering something dangerous. That is the sort of thing a decent mail-order/Internet pharmacy should do. Depending on where a pharmacy is located, they may be required to have a local doctor review the prescription and have a copy of your driver’s license (or similar form of ID) sent to them in order to fill your order.
Another obvious red flag is any pharmacy outside of the US offering to sell you stimulants, benzodiazepines, opioid-based painkillers, or any other controlled substance, whether you have a prescription or not. That’s not legal, and you really should check your computer for malware if you visit a site that offers to do illegal crap.
The best way to tell if a pharmacy that isn’t an obvious scam is legitimate is to check if they are certified by the appropriate agency.
In the US the people who certify that someone is qualified to be a pharmacist - National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)1 - run the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program. Verified pharmacies will have the VIPPS seal on their site that links to their verification information. You can also enter the pharmacy’s URL at the bottom of the VIPPS page to see if it’s verified or not, or scroll through their massive (28 as of this writing) database of US-based online pharmacies that won’t screw you over.
They also run a program for veterinary pharmacies.
Canadian pharmacies are verified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA). As with VIPPS, CIPA-certified sites display the CIPA seal that links to their verification information. CIPA also has a verification page where you can enter a pharmacy’s URL and browse their hugely extensive list2 of 14 certified pharmacies. I especially like how they also list known fraudulent websites on the same page.
There may be certification programs for pharmacies based in other countries, but I haven’t found them.
That’s all there is to it. As long as a pharmacy is certified by an appropriate accreditation agency and doesn’t offer anything illegal, it’s probably safe, otherwise shop elsewhere. As for which one to pick after that…
Has someone else complained about the pharmacy in question? One thing the Internet is good for is voicing complaints, loudly and frequently. If someone has had a bad enough experience, they might just register a domain for the express purpose of voicing a complaint about something3. Just enter the name or the URL of the pharmacy in question into Google and look at the nature of the results you get. If there are too many results, add words and phrases related to complaints like “delay,” “wrong,” “customer service,” “sucks ass.”
You can do similar search looking for praise. Of course just like anywhere else people put far more energy into complaining about something than they would in praising it. And you often run into ads for the pharmacies.
It’s now a lot more difficult to find any mention of specific pharmacies because, for some bizarre reason, PayPal considers discussing specific online pharmacies as facilitating the sale of drugs. No, really. Somehow telling you that one certified pharmacy has good customer service, or another with a very similar name to the first is a fraudulent site gets you into trouble because of this:
5. violat[ing] applicable laws or industry regulations regarding the sale of (a) tobacco products, or (b) prescription drugs and devices. -- PayPal’s acceptable use policy.
So don’t expect to find any reviews of Internet pharmacies on sites that take donations via PayPal.
For more information on avoiding fraudulent ‘pharmacies’ and picking legitimate ones, see the FDA’s guide to buying medicine online. They also have a fancy PDF version, amusingly located in their Emergency Preparedness & Bioterrorism section. I shit thee not.
I’ve purchased prescription medications from several different CIPA-certified Canadian pharmacies. They each have their good points and their bad points. If someone you trust is happy with a particular certified pharmacy see if the meds you need are available and what they cost. Then pick a couple other certified pharmacies to compare, and if their prices aren’t that much different, just use the same pharmacy as your friend/family member. Sometimes some things in life can be that easy.
No matter what the FDA, various non-profit and assorted other non-governmental organizations, and people with websites like this one4 try to do, there are plenty of morons out there more than ready to give their money to crooks in exchange for anything from harmless placebos to dangerous concoctions. Case in point this experiment by Central Michigan University researchers. Not only did they created patently obvious bogus pharmacies, but had said pharmacies sell a fictional medication. Half of their fellow students were willing to buy Beozine from at least one of the ‘pharmacies.’ So I don’t have any expectations as to how much good our efforts will do.
2 As Canadia has a population that's around 11% of the US, that's comparatively way more extensive.
3 Although costcowebpharmacysucks.com is no longer expressly about how much Mr. Robinson hates CostCo's online pharmacy, I still love the passion of his screeds. His site is an example of what made teh interwebs great. There just aren't enough sites like this anymore.
4 Rather, sort of like this one. I doubt if there's a website anything like Crazy Meds.
How to Choose an Internet Pharmacy by Jerod Poore is copyright © 2011
Author: Jerod Poore. Date created: 25 May 2011 Last edited by: Jerod Poore on: June 13, 2013, at 03:25 PM
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All information on this site has been obtained through our personal experience and the experiences family, friends, what people have reported on various reputable sites all over teh intergoogles, the medications’ product information / summary of product characteristic (PI/SPC) sheets, and from sources that are referenced throughout the site. As such the information presented here is not intended as a substitute for real medical advice from your real doctor, just a compliment to it. You should never, ever, replace what a real doctor tells you with something from a website on the Internet. The farthest you should ever take it is getting a second opinion from another real doctor. Educate yourself - always read the PI/SPC sheet or patient information leaflet (PIL) that comes with your medications and never ever throw them away.
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1 While there are plenty of books to help you with hypochondria, for some reason there’s not much in the way of websites. Then again, staying off of the Internet is a large part of curing/managing the disorder.
2 Remember kids, Microsloth operating systems are like TOS Star Trek movies with in that every other one sucks way, way more. With TOS Star Trek movies you don’t want to bother watching the odd-numbered ones. With Microsloth OS you don’t want to buy and install the even-numbered ones. Anyone who remembers ME and Vista knows what I mean.
3 Have I mentioned how open source operating systems for commercial applications is one of the dumbest ideas in the history of dumb ideas?
[begin rant] I rent a dedicated server for Crazy Meds. It’s sitting on a rack somewhere in Southern California along with a bunch of other servers that other people have rented. The hardware is identical, but no two machines have exactly the same operating systems. I don’t even need to see what is on any of the others to know this. If somebody got their server at the exact same time, with the exact same features as I did, I’m confident that there would be noticeable differences in some aspects of the operating systems. So what does this mean? For one thing it means that no two computers in the same office of a single company have the same operating system, and the techs can spend hours figuring out what the fuck the problem could be based on that alone. It also means that application software like IP board that runs the forum here has to have so many fucking user-configurable bells and whistles that even when I read the manual I can’t find every setting, or every location that every flag needs to be set in order for a feature to run the way I want it to run. And in the real world it means you can get an MBA not only with an emphasis on resource planning, but with an emphasis on using SAP - a piece of software so complex there are now college programs on how to use it. You might think, “But don’t people learn how to use Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator in college?” Sure, in order to create stuff. And in a way you’re creating stuff with SAP. But do you get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis on Photoshop?
Back in the Big Iron Age the operating systems were proprietary, and every computer that took up an entire room with a raised floor and HVAC system, and had less storage and processing power than an iPhone, had the same operating system as every other one, give or take a release level. But when a company bought application software like SAP, they also got the source code, which was usually documented and written in a way to make it easy to modify the hell out of it. Why? Because accounting principles may be the same the world over, and tax laws the same across each country and state, but no two companies have the same format for their reports, invoices, purchase orders and so forth. Standards existed and were universally ignored. If something went wrong it went wrong the same way for everyone, and was easy to track down. People didn’t need to take a college course to learn how to use a piece of software.
I’m not against the open source concept entirely. Back then all the programmers read the same magazines, so we all had the same homebrew utilities. We even had a forerunner of QR Code to scan the longer source code. Software vendors and computer manufacturers sponsored conventions so we could, among other things, swap recipes for such add-ons and utilities. While those things would make our lives easier, they had nothing to do with critical functions of the operating system. Unless badly implemented they would rarely cause key application software to crash and burn. Whereas today, with open source everything, who the hell knows what could be responsible some part of a system failing. [/end rant]