Internet purchases of prescription drugs proliferate in Canada, exposing unsuspecting Canadians to black market and counterfeit medication. At Interchange 2014, we’ll tackle the current state of fake online pharmacies and help you decode fake pharmacy websites.

In part one of a two-part series on Canadian fake online pharmacies, iPolitics describes the trend among Canadian consumers to purchase medication from Internet sources, “Rather than walk to the local pharmacy, people are buying restricted medication with the click of a mouse.”

iPolitics investigated Canada RX Connection, a website based in Manitoba that calls itself “the most trusted name in Canadian prescription drug order processing.” A review of Canada RX Connection’s marketing materials reveals that it simply is a clearing house for “affiliated Canadian pharmacies.”

iPolitics further learned that Canada RX Connection is not licensed by the Manitoba College of Pharmacists. They are just a “call center,” a business that acts as a referral organization that takes customer orders then sends the order to “affiliated Canadian pharmacies” that may or may not be licensed and legitimate.”

The British Columbia coroner’s office said that they had proof of one person dying as a result of purchasing a drug from an online pharmacy, but caution that it is difficult to assess the impact fake, diluted, or impure drugs may have on the health of patients. Said coroner Barb McLintock to iPolitics, “The drugs are baking soda perhaps, a favourite. You die of (the disease) you had, but you might have died of it…if you had been getting the correct drugs.”

On top of the myriad online sites that claim to be Canadian but have no link to Canada, the magazine discovered online pharmacies falsely claiming to be licensed and regulated by Canadian colleges of pharmacists in Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba.

These pharmacies do not comply with Canadian provincial law. Said Lori Decou, spokeswoman for the Ontario College of Pharmacists, “If you are strictly an online pharmacy and are claiming to be operating in Ontario, we do not accredit you so you cannot do that. You have to have a bricks and mortar site or location.”

By S. Imber