Technology and the internet have forever changed our lives. For the many things that the internet has made faster, easier, or cheaper, it has also brought with it a certain amount of danger. One of those dangers is the siren song of cheap medications being sold by online “Canadian pharmacies.” The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA), a nonprofit corporation focused on identifying, mitigating, and neutralizing cybercrime threats globally, analyzed ten years of online pharmacy research and data from over 120,000 domains to conclude that online Canadian pharmacies are not Canadian.
NCFTA’s recent Pharmaceutical Fraud Initiative analysis revealed the complicated networks behind so many of the websites offering cheap medicines. While people tend to think of websites as individual companies, many online pharmacy websites are actually multi-network affiliate domains. NCFTA’s analysis of 28,000 affiliate domains found that over 75% of the websites were hosted in Russia with the rest of them hosted in 17 other countries scattered across the globe. When they looked at 61 online pharmacies that claimed to be Canadian, only two of them were hosted within the country itself.
Other risks associated with purchasing prescription medications from online pharmacies cited by NCFTA included the inability to guarantee best practices were adhered to in the shipping and storage of medications, risks to consumers health if cold-chain or temperature controlled products were shipped incorrectly, unknown quality of ingredients used, the sale of controlled substances without requiring a valid prescription, and the online availability of fentanyl complicating the opioid crisis.