The price of prescription medication is sometimes stifling. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to skip taking your medication any more than you can afford to pay for it.
More people are heading online to fill their prescriptions, but buyers beware. Only about 4% of online pharmacies meet federal and state laws — meaning 96% of these websites are operating illegally.
Instead of choosing a website at random, know how to spot a reliable online pharmacy. Keep reading to learn how to detect a legitimate online pharmacy before you “add to cart.”
Risks from Buying From an Unverified Website
Buying the “cheapest option” seems like a great way to save. Unfortunately, buying cheap prescription drugs could come with a number of harmful side effects.
Before you buy from an unverified website, make sure you’re aware of the consequences.
For example, buying from these websites could:
- Expose your computer to malware
- Leave you falling victim to identity theft or fraud
- Cause you to buy drugs that aren’t FDA-approved
- Cause you to buy drugs with life-threatening filler substances
- Cause you to receive medication that doesn’t work as promised or lacks the right active ingredients
Sometimes, these websites can make it seem like they provide safe drugs. However, many people find it difficult to distinguish a safe website from an illegal one.
Some medications aren’t stored properly with the right temperature controls. This can cause the medication to become ineffective.
These websites are even advertised on search engines and social media platforms. During a study, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies (NABP) found that 38% were promoting illegal online pharmacies. To keep these illegal online pharmacies from advertising, companies like Google and Snapchat have added to their advertising requirements.
Unknowingly buying from an illegal online pharmacy could put your life at risk. Instead, let’s make sure you can find reputable online pharmacies to purchase your prescription medications from.
How to Buy Safely from Online Pharmacies
Buying our prescription drugs online seems easy, convenient, and cheaper than the alternative. When you find legitimate online pharmacies, it is convenient and easier. However, there are still risks involved when you’re not thorough with your search.
Instead of falling for a scam, make sure you find the legal online pharmacies among the fray of illegal ones.
To find the best online pharmacies, you should know there’s a specific criterion for what’s legal. This can depend on:
- You location
- The pharmacy’s local
- Whether or not a prescription is needed
By U.S. federal law, an online pharmacy must be able to prove that you have a relationship with the doctor who wrote you the prescription. The pharmacy will need to see the doctor’s signature on the prescription in order to fill your script.
Before you buy, you should be able to answer yes to the following questions:
- Does the pharmacy ask for a doctor-signed prescription?
- Is the pharmacy licensed in the state it’s located in?
- Would the online pharmacy let me speak to a pharmacist if needed?
Less than 5% of consumers are aware of the tools that can help them find safe, legal online pharmacies. To avoid joining that 5%, here are a few items to look out for as you search for legal online pharmacies.
Check the List
After finding that 95% of websites selling prescription drugs online are operating illegally, the NABP created the Not Recommended List (NRL).
This list features websites that aren’t in compliance with NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards. The websites on this list are:
- Operating as a pharmacy without required licensure
- Selling medication that isn’t approved or authorized for sale in the patient’s jurisdiction
- Selling prescription-only medication without requiring a prescription from the patient
Some of these websites don’t even sell drugs directly. Instead, these websites refer patients to another website that violated the NABP standards.
Using a website on the NRL to purchase your prescription medications could put you at risk.
Check the Domain
Websites with the “.pharmacy” domain at the end of their web address are considered safe. In fact, the NABP reviews these websites to make sure they adhere to certain legal practices and standards.
A company can’t fake or forge the “.pharmacy” domain.
If you’re looking for the best online pharmacies, check the domain name before you buy it. Websites with this domain have already been accredited or verified by the NABP for safety regulations.
Check for the Seal
A website that was approved by the NABP will have the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ Seal. It’s also known as the VIPPS® Seal.
If you see this seal on a website, it’s met the state licensure requirements and other NABP criteria.
You can check the VIPPS website to find reliable online pharmacies that have this seal.
Check the Price
Sometimes, a good price is too good to be true. Before you make a purchase online, shop around. Compare different online prices. This will help you gauge whether or not the price is right.
It also helps to use a website that will compare the prices for you. You can read more about comparing prices to find the discounted prescription that fits your needs.
If you’re unsure about a price, trust your gut.
Don’t feel the need to buy the cheapest option available. Instead, review the notes above. Does the website have the “.pharmacy” domain and the VIPPS® Seal? Are they on the NRL?
Answering these questions first, then looking at the prices can help give you peace of mind. Instead of rushing to make a purchase, shop safe. Find a reliable online pharmacy that prioritizes your safety and offers the discounted prices that fit your budget.
That way, you’re not paying the price in other ways after you buy it.
Shopping Online Safely: How to Buy From Legal Online Pharmacies
Your health comes first. Instead of buying the cheapest options online, it’s important to know how to recognize safe, online pharmacies.
The next time you shop, review the list above. Knowing how to spot a legit online pharmacy ensure you remain safe and healthy.
Check the General Health section of the blog for more helpful tips.