Selling prescription medications online comes with a certain element of risk. Online pharmacies have to make sure that all their ducks are in a row so that they don’t run afoul of the law. They also do not want to inadvertently harm customers. And of course, they have to protect themselves against fraud. That may be the biggest issue of all.
How does fraud affect an online pharmacy? The same way it affects brick-and-mortar pharmacies. Online operators have to be cognizant of doctor shoppers, for example. They have to be aware of people that might be looking to obtain prescription drugs illegally for the purposes of selling them on the street.
Below are some of the steps online pharmacies take to protect themselves, compliments of Canada Drugs Direct, a Canadian online pharmacy that serves U.S. customers.
1. Requiring a Prescription
Right off the top, online pharmacies require prescriptions from licensed medical professionals before they fill an order for prescription medications. A prescription can be written by a doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, etc. The medical provider in question must be properly licensed.
As for how prescriptions are submitted to online pharmacies, policies differ. Canada Drugs Direct requires both the original prescription and a copy thereof. The original is mailed after a patient’s order is placed. But to facilitate filling the order right away, the pharmacy allows patients to submit an electronic copy of the prescription via fax, email, or direct upload.
Requiring both the original prescription and a copy protects the pharmacy to a certain degree. The faxed, emailed, or uploaded copy acts as proof that a patient’s prescription is valid. The original copy acts as an insurance policy in case the pharmacy runs into legal trouble.
2. Maintaining Pharmacy Licensing
Online pharmacies also protect themselves against fraud by obtaining and maintaining their own licenses. For example, the Canadian operation needs to be licensed by U.S. regulators in order to ship prescription medications to this country. Licensing demonstrates that an online pharmacy is legally approved and recognized by regulators.
Allowing a license to lapse would open an online pharmacy to all sorts of legal action. If a patient were harmed by a drug received from the pharmacy, there could be liability issues in play. Online pharmacies avoid all of that by applying for the necessary licenses. And once obtained, they do whatever is necessary to keep those licenses.
3. Maintaining Accreditation
This final step is one that not all online pharmacies take. What is it? Obtaining and maintaining proper accreditation. Again, we can use Canada Drugs Direct as an example. They are accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.
What does accreditation do for an online pharmacy? It demonstrates that the organization meets or exceeds all the requirements of the accrediting organization. In essence, accreditation is a means of establishing a set of standards and holding participating organizations to them.
Accreditation demonstrates that an online pharmacy intends to do things the right way. It demonstrates accountability as well. If an accredited pharmacy does not uphold the standards of accreditation, that accreditation could be revoked. Thus, the pharmacy is held accountable for everything it does.
Taking such steps may seem like overkill to someone not involved in the pharmaceutical industry. But for online pharmacies, the steps are absolutely necessary. Their businesses are too valuable to jeopardize at the hands of fraudsters who would seek to obtain prescription medications illegally. If protecting itself requires an online pharmacy to jump through a few hoops, so be it. That is the cost of doing business in such a challenging industry.