Rural Iowans who have to make a long trek to a drug store might consider buying their prescription medications online, but they’re being warned against it.

Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, says most of those websites are flaunting the law, in addition to selling bogus drugs.

“It’s a $75-billion industry and you really can’t buy medications online without a prescription, legally, but unfortunately, you’re able to do so and you’re able to do so with websites that are operating illegally, are dangerous and are probably selling counterfeit drugs,” Catizone says.

An association study of online drug stores revealed just how crooked most of those businesses have become.

“We looked at over 8,000 websites selling prescription drugs,” Catizone says. “Ninety-six-percent of those websites were fake, rogue or illegal sites that were breaking both federal and state law.”

He says it’s even more disturbing to hear that any type of drug, from diet pills to pain killers, can be purchased online and without a prescription.

Catizone says, “You can order virtually any prescription drug in the world that you want, but the other side of the issue is, if you’re not using a legal, on-site pharmacy or talking to your doctor, the chances of what you are getting being a real med are probably nil and the dangers of using or taking or buying those meds are high and very significant.”

He says counterfeit medication manufacturers have become very skilled at producing convincing products that look like the real thing, but they’re usually made in unsanitary conditions and contain dangerous substances, like rat poison or lead.

Erectile drugs are the most-counterfeited. The study also found one in six Americans bought medications online last year.