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Not All Foreign Online Pharmacies are Illegitimate, Study Concludes

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Some legitimate foreign online pharmacies may help U.S. consumers buy medicines they otherwise could not afford, a new economic analysis concludes.

The analysis, by the National Bureau of Economic Research, concludes that while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has good reason to warn U.S. consumers about these pharmacies, the warnings may go too far, NPR reports.

The FDA states a safe online pharmacy should be located in the United States, and licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website is operating.

The new report notes many Americans do not fill their prescriptions because they cannot afford to. Some legitimate foreign pharmacies may offer lower prices than their U.S. counterparts, the researchers note. “A blanket warning against any foreign website may deny consumers substantial price savings,” the report states.

The researchers ordered 328 drug samples from 41 online pharmacies based in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. They compared them in terms of drug safety—through a chemical analysis—and cost savings.

Eight of the websites were based in the United States, and shipped high-quality, authentic drugs. Another group of pharmacies, mostly foreign, sometimes shipped fake versions of Viagra. A third group of online pharmacies, most of them foreign, sent authentic drugs that cost much less than the American pharmacies.

“In the U.S., tens of millions of Americans go without prescribed medication due to cost each year,” the report notes. “For most uninsured Americans, lower priced drugs from foreign online pharmacies are an attractive option and for many a necessary one. In light of this, we wonder whether a blanket warning against foreign websites has limited price competition between U.S. and foreign websites, and whether a more open and educational policy could make better use of the existing verification services for consumer savings in authentic drugs.”

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