Internet Prescribing - Information for Consumers
If contemplating obtaining prescriptions through the Internet, consumers should consider the following:
- Ordering drugs without a relationship with a physician is potentially dangerous. By law, with very limited exceptions, prescription drugs must be prescribed by a physician after an appropriate prior examination has been performed and a medical indication for the prescription has been determined. There is good reason for this, as drugs should only be prescribed after an examination is performed and the cause of the problem or condition is diagnosed.
- In California, the law requires that physicians and pharmacists be licensed, and that physicians perform an appropriate prior examination before prescribing drugs.
- Self-diagnosing can be dangerous, and treating a symptom without determining the underlying cause may mask symptoms that will prevent appropriate treatment of a serious, and maybe life-threatening, disease or condition.
- All drugs, particularly prescription drugs, have the potential for dangerous side effects. Patients need a physician with whom they have a relationship to monitor and treat their conditions for a number of very good reasons. In the event of side effects, if the condition worsens, or if there is an interaction with other drugs, each patient needs a physician who is aware of their condition and the medications.
- While the price of some drugs is dramatically less on some sites, the drug shipped may not be the drug ordered. It may be something entirely different or it may be adulterated. Postal authorities regularly seize shipments of pharmaceuticals being sent from overseas, and what they find should be cause for concern to consumers. They frequently discover adulterated, counterfeit, and mislabeled drugs.
Ordering prescription drugs online is certainly convenient. If you have a prescription from your doctor, there is no reason that you should not order them from a reputable business through the Internet. As with all purchases, however, consumers should check out the business before providing payment. Organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), also have merchants who are online. To checkout online vendors who have BBB membership, or to find helpful tips and publications about ordering anything through the Internet, please click the link below. The Federal Trade Commission also has helpful publications about many consumer issues. You also may find more information concerning drugs for sale over the Internet from the Food & Drug Administration and in the California Board of Pharmacy brochure.
Complaints alleging inappropriate/excessive prescribing are treated as Quality of Care complaints and go through the same enforcement review process. These complaints can allege the following:
- Excessive Prescribing/Treatment: Repeated acts of clearly excessive prescribing, furnishing, or administering of controlled substances, or repeated acts of prescribing, dispending, or furnishing of controlled substances without an appropriate prior exam of the patient and medical reason therefore
- Excessive Recommending of Medical Cannabis: Repeated acts of clearly excessive recommending of cannabis to patients for medical purposes, or repeated acts of recommending cannabis to patients for medical purposes without an appropriate prior examination of the patient and a medical reason for the recommendation
- Excessive/Prescribing Psychotropic Medications to a Child: Repeated acts of clearly excessive prescribing, furnishing, or administering psychotropic medication to a minor without an appropriate prior examination of the patient and medical reason therefore
- Inappropriate Prescribing: Prescribing to an established patient without an appropriate prior exam; prescribing wrong dosage, prescribing wrong medication, or contraindicated medications
Can a physician treat and prescribe to family, friends or employees?
There is no law which specifically prohibits a physician from evaluating, diagnosing, treating, or prescribing controlled substances to a family member, employee or friend. However, the practice is discouraged. There are laws to consider when assessing any prescribing issues which include, but are not limited to: 1) a physician cannot prescribe without an appropriate prior exam and a medical indication for the prescription, and 2) an adequate and accurate medical record relating to the provision of services to the patient and documenting the medical need for the prescription must be created and maintained by the physician. Basically, a physician must follow the same practice/protocol for any patient in which medications are prescribed.