With the rising costs of many prescription medications and changes to health insurance coverage, an increasing volume of Americans are filling their prescriptions through online pharmacies. A Consumer Reports survey from 2017 discovered that around 3.4 million Americans had purchased at least one of their medications online within the last year to save lots of money.1
Online pharmacies can be considered a reliable, easy, efficient, safe, and private way to buy prescription and over-the-counter medications. However, it could be tricky to learn if you are buying from a legitimate business.
Before you get from a Canadian Pharmacy, you will want to find out whether it’s properly licensed. Organizations including the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PharmacyChecker, and the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) evaluate online drugstores for the product quality and safety with their services.
There are a variety of potential issues with online pharmacies. While there are laws to safeguard consumers, those laws have limitations.2 Even with laws in place, a dishonest business may work hard to bypass the rules.
Dangers of Online Pharmacies
Medications may be counterfeit
Medications may not be approved
Wrong medications could be sold/sent
Medications may be sold with out a medical professional’s prescription
Protection for consumers’ private information (including payment information) might not exist
While the FDA regulates prescription drugs in the U.S., it cannot monitor the safety and efficacy of imported products.3 Websites selling medications that aren’t FDA-approved can pop-up seemingly overnight and disappear just as quickly. Therefore, little can be carried out if consumers receive counterfeit drugs or are victims of any scam.
What things to Look For
It is properly legal to really get your medications from a web pharmacy, but not all online pharmacies follow legal guidelines.4 There are a variety of things that you should consider when looking for a legitimate online pharmacy.
Consult with your medical health insurance. If your health insurance coverage offers prescription coverage, ask your insurer for a list of approved online pharmacies. Companies vet pharmacies before accepting them as suppliers, and that means you can trust a pharmacy on their approved list is the best option.
However, in case a pharmacy is not approved by your health insurer, it doesn’t mean the pharmacy is not legitimate-it only means that your insurance company and the pharmacy do not have a small business agreement with each other.
Be sure that the pharmacy takes a doctor’s prescription. If an online pharmacy gives you to contact a prescription yourself, it’s a significant red flag that the business enterprise is not legitimate. Likewise, in case a pharmacy offers a doctor to write a prescription for you (often lacking any exam), this practice is unsafe and illegal.
COULD IT BE Actually Illegal to Use Drugs With out a Prescription?
Look out for unusual prices. If you’re spending money on your prescriptions yourself, you will likely want to look around to save lots of money. While there are some legitimate ways to save lots of money on prescription medications, if you find an internet pharmacy with unrealistically low or high prices, be wary.
Make certain the pharmacy has a home address. In case a pharmacy claims to maintain the U.S. or Canada, confirm the business has a physical street address in another of those countries. A P.O. box address can be considered a sign that the pharmacy is not actually located where the name implies.
Verifying YOUR WEB Pharmacy
In addition to looking for warning flag, there are important resources you may use to confirm that you will be dealing with a legitimate and accredited pharmacy. The standards for these resources often overlap and can be used together to help you verify a web based pharmacy.
The majority of online pharmacies are rejected by these organizations. In 2017, a report from the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) discovered that as much as 96% of online pharmacies are noncompliant with federal and/or state laws.
Inside the U.S., pharmacists and pharmacies are licensed by state boards. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) is a nonprofit association of the boards of pharmacy in each one of the 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories (the Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas), as well as the 10 Canadian provinces.5
The NABP offers a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) accredidation program for online pharmacies.6 The VIPPS program screens the grade of a web pharmacy’s services, including its options for filling prescriptions, protecting consumer information, and communicating with customers.
A qualified company will hold the VIPPS seal on its website. However, the concern that the VIPPS logo could be easily copied and used fraudulently led NABP to develop a second measure the .Pharmacy Verified Websites Program.6
Online pharmacies may use a specific web address with the .pharmacy domain to assure consumers that the web site they are simply visiting to purchase prescriptions is legitimate.
Both U.S. and non-U.S. pharmacies can connect with the .pharmacy program, so long as they meet up with the eligibility requirements.7 Having and maintaining an approved .pharmacy domain is necessary for pharmacies seeking VIPPS accreditation.
The NABP provides a searchable database of websites which have been approved by either program; the set of approved online pharmacies can even be downloaded.8
A web pharmacy accredited by these organizations will be listed as an approved pharmacy on the NABP or FDA website, have a .pharmacy domain, and/or have the VIPPS seal.
Based on the NABP, nearly 96% of the online drug companies they reviewed weren’t in compliance with state or federal regulations.9 To help consumers make informed decisions, the NABP provides a set of rogue online pharmacy sites that are not recommended.
The NABP works together with the FDA to find out which online pharmacies have the VIPPS seal of approval. Since the NABP represents the 50 state boards that license pharmacies, only the ones that are located in the U.S. can have the VIPPS seal. Non-U.S. pharmacies may, however, apply to the .pharmacy program.
The FDA also offers a resource to help consumers determine whether a web based pharmacy is properly licensed.10 Consumers can also report pharmacies that seem to be selling and mailing medications illegally.
The FDA states that it is illegal for consumers to import an unapproved drug in to the U.S.11 Furthermore, it’s unlawful for any person, company, or foreign pharmacy to ship prescription drugs to the U.S. that aren’t FDA-approved.
Americans might want to order medications from Canada where they are generally cheaper. Many pharmacies are approved by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA). However, consumers should keep in mind that wish pharmacy has “Canada” in its name doesn’t mean from the Canadian pharmacy.
Consumers can protect themselves from fraudulent pharmacies by paying attention to warnings issued by the Canadian government, as well as checking CIPA’s set of verified online pharmacies.12
PharmacyChecker is a for-profit company that verifies both U.S. and foreign online drugstores.13 Consumers can also conduct price comparisons for specific medications and check ratings from consumers predicated on a five-star rating system.
To get the PharmacyChecker “press,” pharmacies must meet several requirements, including but not limited by:14
Requiring a valid prescription from a qualified physician
Dispensing medications by way of a pharmacy certified in the U.S., Canada, or other country accepted by PharmacyChecker
Assuring that consumers’ medical and financial information is private and secured
Providing accurate and transparent information regarding location and contact on its website, including the company’s address and contact number
A Word From Verywell
Consumers have a growing volume of options for convenient ways to acquire prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Using a web pharmacy can be considered a cost-effective and convenient way to fill your prescriptions, but you will want to do your quest to verify an internet pharmacy is safe and legal.