Dangerous Drugs: Be careful where you shop

It’s tough to resist a great deal, but our health experts say bargain hunting for prescription drugs online from Canada or other countries could be dangerous. The problem is that most online-only pharmacies aren’t legitimate. A recent review of more than 7,000 of them found that only 3.5 percent appear to be trustworthy, according to research by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, an umbrella group that support state boards of pharmacy.

The NABP found that most of the pharmacies didn’t require a valid prescription and sold medications that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, among other things. The NABP also warns that many online pharmacies advertised as “Canadian” might not be located anywhere near our northern neighbor. The drugs might be manufactured in developing countries where standards are more lax and potentially dangerous counterfeits are prevalent.

Another shocker: A group of European researchers ordered drugs from 116 websites and found that more than 90 percent of the sites didn’t require a prescription. And 62 percent of the drugs they received were counterfeit, substandard, or unapproved generics. Other researchers who received 152 prescriptions handled by online foreign pharmacies found that 20 percent were filled with a different drug from what was on the prescription – with drugs that were considered unidentifiable. three orders for Viagra (sildenafil) were likely counterfeit.

The Bottom Line In most cases, it’s illegal to buy drugs online from foreign countries. But you can shop online for a better deal from a U.S. pharmacy. Some safety tips: Look for the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal, which means that the site dispenses FDA-approved medications, requires a prescription, has undergone an on-site inspection of all facilities, and has a physical location. For a list of VIPPS pharmacies, go to www.nabp.net/programs and click on the VIPPS seal. Also keep in mind that almost every big-box and chain-store pharmacy offers a discount generic-drug program that sells 30-day supplies for as little as $4 and 90-day supplies for $10 or so.

Chomp on this!

The next time you need to focus, get chewing. A small study found that people felt more alert while they were working on a computer task for 20 minutes when they chewed spearmint gum.

New Sunscreen Caution

The Food and Drug Administration has announced that it’s investigating the potential risks of spray sunscreens, so we now advise not to spray them on kids. We don’t recommend Ocean Potion Kids Instant Dry Mist SPF 50 for children. The problem is that kids tend to squirm when they’re sprayed, so they could end up breathing in sunscreen or getting it in their mouth. If you only have spray sunscreen, put some in your hands and wipe it on your child.

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