Online pharmacies have been implicated in several recent criminal cases, from accusations of wire and mail fraud, to distribution of counterfeit medications for cancer, ADHD and pain.

Experts at The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, a non-profit for the purpose of protecting patient safety globally and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies warn that this may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Learn more at the  2012 Interchange on September 28, 2012 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

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Online pharmacies have been implicated in several recent criminal cases, from accusations of wire and mail fraud, to distribution of counterfeit medications for cancer, ADHD and pain.

Canadian citizen, Andrew Strempler, held without bail in Florida, has been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud in the U.S. He is accused of selling online medications that purported to be made and tested in a Canadian pharmacy, but were actually shipped in bulk from other countries.

Another online pharmacy has been implicated in the counterfeit Avastin case. Doctors in 15 states were warned that they may have engaged in business with the distributors of the counterfeit medication and asked in subpoenas to submit “all documents related to the purchase of foreign-market drugs” from a internet pharmacy that advertises foreign-sourced drugs on its website, CanadaDrugs.com, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Additionally the FDA has recently posted two alerts about counterfeit medication found online. The first, ADHA medication, contained none of the active ingredients, but instead contained tramadol, a pain reliever. The second, Vicodin, contained no hydrocodone, but instead contained acetaminophen and diclofenac, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug.

Experts at The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, a non-profit for the purpose of protecting patient safety globally and ensuring patient access to safe and legitimate online pharmacies warn that this may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Libby Baney, a Vice President at FaegreBD Consulting and an advisor to Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, addressed what she called the “wild, wild west of online pharmacies,” at the 2011 Partnership for Safe Medicines Interchange.

Said Baney, “Approximately 60-90 thousand websites that at any given time sell medications on the Internet…. [The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy]’s most recent data says 96% are illegal. 96% of online pharmacies are not in compliance with US state and federal laws today.”

But Baney reminds consumers that there are safe alternatives to unverified fake online pharmacies for safe savings.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the United States to make sure there are a lot of safety nets for patients. We’ve spent a lot of time and money securing the legitimate supply chain. There is a lot of effort in the legitimate supply chain. But if you buy online, often these safety nets are bypassed.”

Consumers can comparison shop for lower prices at legitimate online pharmacies that have the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Seal (VIPPS), and avoid websites that do not have VIPPS to steer clear of potential counterfeit medications.

These recent counterfeit cases, spanning the globe and implicating the American consumers, will be focused upon at the  2012 Interchange on September 28, 2012 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.  Please note that this year's event is happening a month earlier than last year's Interchange. Early registration tickets are available until August 15, 2012.

By S. Imber