The risk of un-regulated Internet Pharmacies




March 23, 2007



 Media reports of a BC resident who perished after taking medication obtained from an 'Internet Pharmacy' have highlighted the risk of obtaining drugs from unregulated, unlicensed operations that purport to be 'pharmacies' or 'pharmacists'.


Pharmacy, like all professions in Canada, is regulated by provincial law.  Any legitimate pharmacist or pharmacy in BC is governed by the BC College of Pharmacists.  That goes for pharmacy operations in other provinces.  The College as the regulatory body is required to protect the public by setting and enforcing rules and standards of practice.


A number of regulated pharmacies in Canada have legitimate websites that offer a limited range of products and services, including information for consumers, and shopping for certain items. 


A call to the BC College of Pharmacists will advise whether a pharmacist or pharmacy is actually licensed in BC. The information is also available on the College's website.  Again the same goes for the other provinces.


Individuals and operations that purport to be pharmacists or pharmacies but are not registered and licensed with the BC College of Pharmacists, are accountable to no-one, and no regulatory body can intervene to deal with serious cases of risk or harm to the public perpetrated by such operators. 


Veterinarians are not permitted to knowingly send prescriptions or countersign prescriptions to unregulated Internet Pharmacy operations. 


Regulated pharmacies must abide by the laws and regulations administered by Health Canada regarding drug dispensing.  Health Canada regulates therapeutic drugs in Canada.  All drugs approved for sale in Canada have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), which provides a way to track adverse drug reactions.  Health Canada licenses and conducts regular inspections of companies that manufacture, import and/or distribute drugs. In addition, Health Canada investigates complaints related to the sale or use of therapeutic drugs, including complaints about Websites that sell drugs, and takes action where appropriate. Health Canada works with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to control the illegal entry of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. 


The CVBC strongly recommends that the public, including owners obtaining drugs for their animals, deal only with their veterinarian or a regulated pharmacist and refrain from dealing with unregulated Internet Pharmacies