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Call Kurtis: The Risks of Using Online Pharmacies

Mary Watrous was glad she caught it.

Her online pharmacy shipped her the wrong pills.

"They sent me 40 milligrams of Lipitor," said Watrous, who has taken Zocor by prescription for years. "I've never taken Lipitor."

Watrous notified the online pharmacy of the mistake and sent the pills back, only to receive the wrong prescription by mail again.

"They just kept telling me the same thing, and I said, 'Wait a minute, you don't understand,'" she said. "I do not take this medication."

"You can get very seriously injured by taking the wrong drug," said Virginia Herold, Executive Director of the California Board of Pharmacy.

Customers typically have a bit more difficulty following up with online pharmacies when things go wrong, she said.

Online pharmacies are required by law to have 1-800 numbers to answer questions, but Watrous said the number didn't help her.

The reality is that mistakes do occasionally happen, but physical pharmacies still offer customers more thorough service, according to pharmacist John Ortego.

"If you're in a pharmacy, you can confirm with the pharmacist, 'What is this drug for?'" he said.

Ortego admits some online pharmacies can be slightly cheaper, but by using them he said customers give up that face-to-face consultation that can catch mistakes.

"Part of being a pharmacist is you take responsibility for people's lives," he said.

Watrous has since learned her doctor's office at Sutter Health actually ordered the wrong prescription from the online pharmacy.

Sutter Health told CBS Sacramento, "The Lipitor was simply ordered in error and mailed before we could cancel it."

Watrous has since been shipped the right pills and said her doctor apologized.

"I just felt that she was really sincere," she said, "and that made me feel good."

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