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FedEx Corporation is being charged with conspiring with two related, but separate, online pharmacies to distribute controlled substances and prescription drugs to U.S. consumers without a valid prescription, a violation of the Cosmetic Act.

The investigation was led by agents from the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations working in conjunction with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The intent is preventing such organizations from distributing drugs ordered illegally through the internet. The agency hopes to convey the message that, “the public’s health is more important than company’s profits.”

This isn’t necessarily a new problem as just last year UPS reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to forfeit $40 million in sales for serving online pharmacies. But it is an issue that needs more attention.

Per the indictment, in 2004 FedEx employees identified more than 200 accounts associated online pharmacies. But, by September 2010 that list surged to more than 600 associated online pharmacies. That being said, consumers need to be diligent in adhering to the following Do’s & Don’ts when ordering prescriptions online to ensure their own safety both for their health and also that they aren’t inadvertently breaking the law by obtaining illegal prescriptions.

Prescription do’s

Consult your medical doctor: Only medications prescribed to you by your doctor or another health care professional that knows you.

A licensed pharmacy: The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy can verify n online pharmacy is licensed and in good standing.

Security and Privacy: It is important to verify that your health information and credit card number will be protected before placing an order.

Counterfeits: There have been many cases in which drugs obtained online turned out to have no active ingredient or contain the wrong medication. These types of medications are unsafe because they are ineffective and can also be harmful.

Report Issues: If you order prescription and it doesn’t arrive, report it to the FDA to help promote a safer marketplace for everyone.

Prescription don’ts

Prescriptions: Don’t order from an online pharmacy that doesn’t require valid prescription. Not only is it unsafe but it violates outlined laws. Be leery of sites that offer a prescription for completely a questionnaire.

Unapproved Meds: Don’t order medication that is not approved by the FDA. Not only is it illegal but it can lead to life-threatening consequences.

Contact Information: If a site doesn’t clearly provide their contact information and/or address, stay away.

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