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    Bridging the online pharmacy knowledge gap

    A majority of pharmacists don’t talk to patients about online pharmacies – especially those that sell counterfeit drugs – according to a recent survey.

    Forty-five percent of pharmacists and other healthcare providers who took a free online continuing pharmacy education course, “Internet Drug Sellers: What Providers Need to Know,” said they “never” or “almost never” discuss online drug sellers with their patients. Only 6% reported that they make a consistent effort to talk about the issue, and only 1% said they do so regularly.

    Libby Baney“It is pretty clear that there is an information gap. We know that both doctors and pharmacists are very busy, and this is not covered in medical school or pharmacy school,” said Libby Baney, JD, Executive Director of the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies—Global (ASOP Global) and principal at FaegreBD Consulting. ASOP and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) partnered to provide the free education course to doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers.

    And many patients just don’t realize that buying drugs online could be dangerous. “Forty-seven percent of Americans are not aware of counterfeit medications as a problem,” Baney said. “They are not sensitized to the risk of buying online medications. They buy everything else online, so why should they think anything different about it?”

    It is in pharmacists’ best interest to educate themselves on illegal online drug sellers, which are producing revenues of between $1.5 and $2.5 million dollars monthly, according to MIT Technology Review.

    To bridge the information gap, the American Pharmacists (APhA) and ASOP Global are offering the one-hour continuing pharmacy education (CPE) course free-of-charge. The course discusses the dangers of obtaining medications from online pharmacies—particularly those that don’t require a prescription, don’t display a physical address, or mimic legitimate health care entities, including major community pharmacy chains. The education includes tips for talking to patients about online drug web sites and how to help them find safe sites.

    Pharmacists can begin the online drug retailer dialogue as part of natural conversation with patients. Baney provided one example: “You just filled cholesterol medication. What other medications are you on? Where do you get those filled?”

    Christine Blank
    Contributing Editor Christine Blank is a freelance writer based in Florida.

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