How an online pharmacy made millions selling unproven COVID-19 drugs

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Digital pharmacy Ravkoo took advantage of relaxed telehealth and prescribing regulations to fill thousands of prescriptions amid the pandemic, most of which were for unproven COVID-19 treatments promoted by anti-vaccination groups, Time reported Oct. 13.

Five things to know:

  1. From November 2020 to September 2021, Ravkoo filled at least 340,000 prescriptions, which totaled an estimated $8.5 million in drug costs, according to data The Intercept hacked and published.

  2. Nearly half of the prescriptions Ravkoo has filled were for ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, and another 30 percent were zinc or azithromycin. All four drugs have been touted as COVID-19 cures by anti-vaccination groups, though there is no evidence showing they effectively treat the virus.

  3. For much of the pandemic, the pharmacy was operating in partnership with America’s Frontline Doctors, an anti-vaccination group. A Ravkoo spokesperson told Time the company cut ties with the group in late August.

  4. A 2020 report from the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies found that more than 35,000 online pharmacies were active worldwide, 96 percent of which were violating state or federal law and relevant pharmacy practice standards.

  5. Libby Baney, a senior adviser to the nonprofit Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, said pharmacies such as Ravkoo pose a risk to patients, as their prescription dispensing processes might not be regulated like traditional pharmacies.

    "We're so used to buying things on the Internet right now that it's hard to educate consumers on the risk because the pandemic has pounded into our heads that it’s OK to get everything online," Ms. Baney said.

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