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How To Avoid Black Market HIV Drugs

Black Market HIV Drugs

A matter of life and death, here are five ways to make sure your drugs are actually safe.

HIV drugs are big business — and not just to the companies that manufacture them and the pharmacies that sell them. They are also a growing portion of the drugs flooding the black market, generally stolen or counterfeit medications. It’s tempting to buy the drugs marketed online at a fraction of what you’re paying for them. As long as you get the drugs you need, you might not care if you buy them from “legitimate” sources or a cut-rate online pharmacy in China selling them for a fraction of the price. Unfortunately, as an AARP investigation recently discovered, many of these drugs are not actually the product of drug heists or patent-breaking knock-offs. Instead, many contain the wrong dosages or none of the stated medication at all. Worse, the AARP Bulletin found that many drugs they tested were “full of dangerous contaminants, including heavy metals, rat poison, and even toxic highway paint.”

So how do you protect yourself? Here are some helpful tips.

1. Although getting your meds from a major retailer doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee, chances are higher that the small new pharmacy advertising rock bottom prices may have drugs that come from dubious sources. Unless you can thoroughly vet your pharmacy, stick with larger or chain stores, well-known small pharmacies, or HIV specialty pharmacies.If you shop online, protect yourself by visiting only establishments verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (

2. Be wary of Internet pharmacies, especially if they claim to be Canadian.  In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that 85 percent of the online pharmacies claiming to be from Canada were actually located someplace else on the globe. 

3. Check your medication before taking them. Use Plus magazine’s Treatment Guide or to look up the name of your meds and compare the photo of the pill to what’s in your RX bottle. Don’t take them if they don’t look the same. (Note: You may not be able to return medications after leaving the pharmacy.)

4. Report any adverse reactions — especially if they aren’t on the list of known side effects — and show questionable meds to your doctor or a reputable pharmacist.

5. Remember, you get what you pay for. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So weigh your risks carefully. It’s one thing to to hope that the generic Rogaine you found on Amazon will actually prevent hair loss; it’s quite another to play Russian roulette with your life-saving HIV or HVC meds. 

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Jacob Anderson-Minshall